Former minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu has rebuked the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leadership for failing to resolve differences and rebuild the party.
He took to the social media to pour out his frustrations in the face of the party’s performance in the October 26 2021 by-elections where it only retained Chimwalire Ward in Balaka South Constituency, but lost the Nkhotakota North East Constituency previously held by its member, the late Martha Lunji. DPP also poorly performed in Mzimba East and Dedza Central East
Tembenu said the party cannot continue burying its head in the sand like an ostrich. He said time has come to tackle the problems head on.
In an interview last evening, he confirmed writing the post that went viral, but said he only posted it on a social media group and did not know how it got out.
However, Tembenu said he had no problems with the contents and he stands by them.
He said: “We cannot pretend. We have problems in the party. It’s a fact. We can’t bury our head in the sand. All we need is to confront the problems, discuss them as family, come up with an amicable solution and then move forward.
“These things have been discussed. It’s that inertia which is a frustrating thing because many people are saying, look, we need to resolve this.
“Malawians need a better opposition party. But as long as we are divided, quarrelling, arguing and squabbling over leadership issues then we will not make it.”
Tembenu said DPP needs to resolve its internal wrangles where everyone involved in the problem should be willing to humble themselves and discuss the issues.
He said: “Our differences will not go away if we are not ready to sit down, face each other and frankly talk about them. The functional review was not an exercise in futility, it must be a starting point in resolving the differences, re-organising the party that should be done inclusively.”
Tembenu said DPP is in a situation where it has more factions than unity.
“We need to resolve this. The collective leadership must sit down and resolve the issues, otherwise, we will still have poor results as we are getting in by-elections,” he said.
But DPP spokesperson Shadric Namalomba yesterday said it was expected of a party out of government to struggle in by-elections.
He said the party was discussing an inclusive direction to make it vibrant again and that such a process takes a while.
Said Namalomba: “We shall come out strong and make ourselves ready to serve Malawians. There are so many issues as was evident in the functional review exercise the party conducted that we must deal with.
“The fact that we lost government that means there were issues, some internal and others external. All these must be dealt with and we are dealing with them systematically and purposefully. We don’t believe in reactive kind of leadership and management.”
Cracks in DPP came to light after embattled secretary general
Grezelder Jeffrey in August last year told The Nation that Mutharika, who lost the court-sanctioned fresh presidential election held on June 23 2020 to President Lazarus Chakwera, had done his part and the party needed a new person to lead it into the future. She called for an early convention
The party later fired its vice-president (South) Kondwani Nankhumwa, Jeffrey, treasurer general Jappie Mhango and Mulanje West legislator Yusuf Nthenda for allegedly influencing the rejection of Mutharika’s appointee, Francis Kasaila, as leader of opposition in Parliament. The matter is now in court.
Political analysts have urged Mutharika to restore order in the party, saying warnings from Tembenu and former president Bakili Muluzi were enough to move the leadership to act.
I n an interview yesterday, University of Malawi (Unima) political scientist Professor Blessings Chinsinga said since losing the June 23 2020 election, DPP has spent much energy towards maintaining squabbles than rebuilding.
He said : “ If an organisation does not have a sense of unity of purpose and direction, it cannot operate at its full strength. What we have seen in the DPP is a party not unified, but absorbed by internal struggles.
“The consequence is that the party cannot fight in by-elections because they don’t have unity of purpose. DPP is in a fix.
“If they are now starting to speak out, it’s an indication that they are fed up. Internal disagreements are not being resolved despite efforts in that direction and that boils down to leadership. Do they have a leadership that can bring factions together? Unfortunately, that leadership is absent.”
Political commentator Humphrey Mvula said he did not see any future for the DPP, since Mutharika was failing to accept the reality that he lost the election.
He said: “What is critical is for Mutharika to realise that time is up. In politics, as a leader, you must be able to read that time is up. He is failing to put the party together and he cannot bring warring factions together and is failing to provide direction of the party.
“Mutharika is not listening to senior members of the party because Tembenu is an accomplished lawyer and handling the elections case. I don’t think he is listening.”
In an earlier interview, Catholic University of Malawi head of political studies Chimwemwe Kandodo said the DPP was sitting on an edge where it can fall if it fails to deal with the current issues.
She said: “It has to seriously work on the problems highlighted, use this period to rebuild the party. If they fail to do this, in 2025 they will have no chance.”
The DPP functional review report said the party’s supporters indicated loss of trust and confidence in the leadership, a development a special committee tasked to come up with the report warned could lead to DPP’s death if not well managed.
The review team, chaired by DPP vice-president (East) Bright Msaka further concluded in its report that the prospects of the party in its current position are not positive although the situation can be turned around.