Malawi National Council of Sports has summoned Football Association of Malawi (FAM) aspiring presidential candidates incumbent president Walter Nyamilandu and his vice, James Mwenda, to a meeting in a bid to ease tension ahead of the polls.
Two camps have emerged—one for Nyamilandu, who is seeking a fifth term—and the other for Mwenda, who wants to unseat his boss at the elective annual general meeting (AGM) slated for December 14 in Mangochi.
With tension mounting between the two, who were once bedfellows, Sports Council acting executive secretary Henry Mereka said they decided to step in to ensure the two control their supporters.
The candidature of the two football administrators was a subject of debate at a meeting between Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and the corporate world held at Ryalls Hotel on Thursday.
Reference was made to the violence that erupted between Mwenda and Nyamilandu’s supporters during the recent Blantyre derby between Be Forward Wanderers and Nyasa Big Bullets right at Kamuzu Stadium’s VIP enclosure, as an example of why companies shun sponsoring sports.
In reaction, Mereka said Sports Council has summoned Mwenda and Nyamilandu on the matter.
“These elections are becoming hot and hotter… Even more than when you are fighting for a constituency seat. Associations are becoming that political,” he said.
Mereka, however, said the council finds itself in a tight spot because of the nature of sports associations such as FAM.
He said: “Besides that they are regulated by us, sports associations also have international bodies that they are affiliated to. For example, FAM is pretty much managed by Fifa and they also have their regulations. Now, the association’s leadership is elected by affiliates of the association. That’s where the problem is.
“How do we come in to regulate the association to stop these fights? There are a couple of times that we have tried to come in and you hear Fifa say ‘it’s government interference and we will pull out’. There was a time we had to put our foot down and say you don’t have a country called Fifa. Malawi is sovereign country and when you come here you have to operate in line with government vision.
“In this case [of FAM elections] our duty is to simply come in and say what is happening ahead of the elections is now beginning to bring back violence [in football]. As government, we have already summoned the aspiring candidates and we have the power to say you are not contesting if the violence continues.”
Later, in a separate interview, Mereka confirmed that FAM was told of the pending meeting with the candidates.
“We noted that the tension is intense. Things are getting out of hand. The two [Nyamilandu and Mwenda] are the key people in ensuring that we do not lose lives over this. All the contesting candidates are on the cards to appear before the ministry.
“Actually, we wanted the meeting held two weeks ago, but it has been tough to find suitable date when both of them are free,” he said.
Both Nyamilandu and Mwenda welcomed the meeting in separate interviews.
“I was ready to attend the meeting when they invited us soon after the match [Blantyre derby], but my counterpart was not available. I am just waiting for Sports Council to arrange the meeting,” said Nyamilandu.
Mwenda said he is now available for the meeting.
“They invited us two weeks ago, but the meeting failed to take place. Otherwise, I am ready for that meeting anytime,” he said.
Soccer analyst George Chiusiwa commended Sports Council for summoning the two, saying government cannot sit idle while things are getting out of hand.
“What we have been seeing in the run up to the FAM elections is very dangerous. If indeed we are not careful, people will kill each at the elections. Sports Council indeed has to step in to ensure that the violence does not escalate,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mwenda is set to launch his manifesto at Bingu International Conference Centre (Bicc) on Monday evening.