Monday marked 100 days since Peter Mutharika lost the State presidency to Lazarus Chakwera. However, the ex-president’s political future has come under fire, with some Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) executives saying he is too old to keep running the party. Our News Analyst MERCY MALIKWA speaks to ex-legislator Allan Ngumuya, who backed similar sentiments by Mutharika’s in-law—former first lady Callista Mutharika.
Q:How do you feel about some DPP leaders’ demands for Mutharika to pave the way for a younger face to lead DPP to the next presidential elections?
A:I feel vindicated. When I backed the former first lady’s remarks that Mutharika was too old to seek re-election in 2019, I was 100 percent sure that APM had to step aside mostly because of his age. Mutharika is old. Decision-making for him was hard and it was going to be harder going forward. Most of the times, after offering him advice, he goes and consults too much. For example, when we went to Parliament, there was debate over the liquidation of Malawi Savings Bank. On the ground, people didn’t want to sell that bank and I was among the first people to go to him to advise him against selling the bank. I told him all the people who owed the bank were supposed to settle their loans first because there were politicians who wanted their loans to be written off the moment it was sold out. Mutharika listened to me and he agreed with my stance. That same night, an announcement was made that the bank was not going to be sold. However, a few days later, he consulted other people and I just heard that the bank had been sold. That is when I realised that our leader was too old and lacked the stamina to make decisions on his own. He depends on others to make decisions for him. That is not good for a State president.
Q:Did you see this coming the time you left DPP to endorse Vice-President Saulos Klaus Chilima’s movement to unseat Mutharika?
A:I saw this coming. With all due respect, if he had listened, stepped aside that time and started grooming Chilima, this country would have been in a different state by now. SKC proved that he could do a good job if allowed to take the presidency. He over-performed when he was at the helm of the Civil Service and Public Sector Reforms in those days. But seeing that Chilima was a star-performer likely to outshine him, Mutharika took away the reforms agenda from him. This was dangerous. As someone who has a vision and a good heart for Malawi, that is when I openly endorsed Chilima’s presidential campaign in the early days. I hate to say it, but even now, when you analyse DPP’s leadership, there are people such as [Hetherwick] Ntaba, [George] Chaponda, Brown Mpinganjira and [Francis] Mphepo who are messing up the party big time. These people aside, Mutharika himself is stubborn. He doesn’t want to listen to people who wish him well. He is somebody who doesn’t want to bring change to the party. This is the reason we were fighting for his retirement. Luckily, he lost the State presidency in a free and fair election. But look at what is happening in the party now, he is tearing DPP apart. Actually, even those who appear to be supporting him and attending his meetings in Mangochi are not on his side. You will all see this as events unfold.
Q:When did you discover that Mutharika was too old to lead?
A:When a person is at least 70 years old, they are old. There is even a verse in the Bible that says the same. Psalms 90 verse 10, reads that when you are 70; you have reached the span of life. From there, it is disaster. When you read that verse correctly, it means that when you are 70 and above, it is time to rest. You are old, just respect yourself and sit back. Perhaps become a senior adviser instead of clinging to power.
Q: What would have changed had the current DPP leaders criticising the party now joined your calls for Mutharika to resign two years ago?
A: Had they listened to some of us, they would still be in government right now. DPP would not be perching in opposition benches. But they didn’t listen and they are suffering the consequences. Since I endorsed Chilima and started showing my allegiance towards his presidency, I never went back because I knew that something was going to happen. People in DPP were not happy with Mutharika’s leadership. So, that is why we stood our ground. Despite all kinds of persecution, we fought hard until Mutharika was voted out of government. Look at what is happening now; the party is out of government and they are scrambling for the position of Leader of Opposition. Instead of stepping aside respectfully to let the party choose a new leader, the former president is busy frustrating the people who stood by him back in 2018.
Q: How can the DPP resolve the ccurrent mess and seal the widening cracks?
A: This time, it is going to be hard. It appears too late to mend. They were supposed to sit down and discuss their issues amicably yesterday. I am saying this because on Sunday, they had two DPP camps holding different meetings. I think after what happened, it is going to be hard for them to sit down and trust each other again. This is the beginning of an end for DPP. It will be hard to mend fences, a line has been crossed. Still, some people will be for Mutharika and others will be for DPP vice-president [South] Kondwani Nankhumwa. We should expect the formation of another party from DPP. Mark my words.