Article 8 (C) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) constitution says it is only the party’s National Political Conference or convention which has powers to elect office holders into various positions in the party and DPP should respect it.
This is the position of the party’s group of officials who have vowed to go all the way to ensure that the party’s constitution is respected.
The DPP officials, who have so far come in the open in support of Vice-President Saulos Chilima’s candidacy for the DPP include youth director Louis Ngalande, legislators for Mulanje South and Blantyre City South, Bon Kalindo and Allan Ngumuya, respectively.
Their stand is in reaction to pronouncements by the party’s vice-president for the South George Chaponda and other senior DPP members who declared at a press briefing on Tuesday that President Peter Mutharika would go unopposed during the party’s convention, whose date is yet to be announced.
Chaponda held the conference alongside Information minister Nicholas Dausi and presidential adviser on political affairs Francis Mphepo.
When put to Chaponda in a telephone interview yesterday what legal provisions his group based their decision for Mutharika’s automatic running as a DPP candidate, he said: “the spirit of the party’s constitution had empowered them”.
Said Chaponda: “What we are saying is that the spirit of the DPP constitution allows Mutharika to go unopposed. You have seen how much support the incumbent has by the way of groups that have come out in support of his candidacy. The President has done a good job in the past four years and is medically fit. But if someone comes out to challenge him at the convention we would accept that. However, as of now, there is no one challenging him.”
However, law professor at Chancellor College Edge Kanyongolo, in a telephone interview yesterday advised the two camps in the ruling DPP to read their own constitution.
Said Kanyongolo: “From the arguments that I have heard from the press conferences it is very unlikely that the people making the pronouncements have read their constitution. If the party wants to resolve this matter quickly, both sides must base their arguments on what the DPP constitution says. If it provides for the incumbent to go unopposed in his second term, let those propagating that argument cite specific provisions in the DPP constitution that supports their claim. Otherwise my advice would be that they should go back to their constitution and see what it prescribes,” he said.
Ngalande, Kalindo and Ngumuya said in separate interviews on Tuesday and Wednesday this week that they are strategising to secure Chilima’s candidacy for the DPP in the 2019 elections.
They say any attempt to block Chilima from contesting at the party’s convention for the presidential race will rip the party apart.
Said Ngalande: “If the DPP wants to block the Veep from contesting for party’s presidency, that will signal the downfall of the party. This will be inflicting self-defeat. Saying there will be no voting [for the party’s presidency] at the convention is not only not in tandem with the DPP constitution, but also against democratic principles.
“This will be against the wishes of the majority within and outside the party.
“Meanwhile, as people who are supporting the Veep, we will go back to re-strategise on the next course of action.”
He added in an exclusive interview on Tuesday: “The idea of having the Vice-President as our torch-bearer in the polls next year is a popular one within the party. It is, therefore, imperative that a convention should be held in order to put the matter to rest. DPP members will have an opportunity to choose their torch-bearer as opposed to threats that are being spewed by some greedy leaders.”
He said the party is supposed “to respect its constitution, or be embarrassed”. He had earlier told Weekend Nation that he and other unnamed members of the party are asking the party’s leadership to call for a convention to address the question of who is to represent the party in the presidential race next year.
Ngalande, who this week faced a revolt from his youth wing members, who asked him to resign for advancing Chilima for the top seat, declared that he was not throwing in the towel.
“Those that are calling for my resignation or apology should be ashamed of themselves. They are all in appointed positions and do not have the legitimacy to push me out of my elected position. Besides, they are not at my level. I will only be answerable to the secretary general and the President.
The party’s leadership has not been forthcoming to disclose the dates and venue of the party’s indaba which is expected to generate interest due to the emerging of Chilima’s name as a likely successor to the incumbent.
Echoing Ngalande, that they were strategising, was Ngumuya who, in an interview on Wednesday, weighed in: “This is a serious movement and we cannot be stopped by some people who think everyone should listen to them. Some of us have taken huge political risks in the past, and we cannot be intimidated.”
On his part, Kalindo blamed the senior members for their conduct. “We will go all the way to secure Chilima’s candidacy. No-one should bend the rules as the party constitution is our basis. We have always said that the President is surrounded by crocodiles.
The debate about who will lead the DPP in the next elections was ignited by former first lady Callista Mutharika, who in a WhatsApp forum for former parliamentarians two weeks ago, called on her brother-in-law Peter Mutharika to pave the way for the younger Chilima, saying he is now 79, and would be too old for the arduous work of the presidency by the time he leaves office in 2024, when he would be 84. Callista is the widow of Bingu wa Mutharika. n