Malawi Congress Party (MCP) has unveiled an eight-point checklist to be used in short-listing eligible candidates for various national executive committee (NEC) positions at the party’s forthcoming convention scheduled for this weekend.
MCP administrative secretary Potiphar Chidaya, in an interview on Wednesday, said based on the criteria developed by an accreditation committee, some of the hopefuls for NEC positions, including presidential aspirants, could be disqualified and barred from contesting.
He said: “There is an accreditation committee which has been set up to scrutinise the nomination papers based on those conditions and approve the final list. I have read out the conditions to all aspirants who have brought their nomination papers to me.”
MCP strongman and current president John Tembo on Wednesday became the eighth contender for the party’s presidency, the highest number in the history of post-1994 political party conventions.
Other presidential aspirants are newly retired chief justice Lovemore Munlo, Malawi Assemblies of God president the Reverend Lazarus Chakwera, former Cabinet minister Jodder Kanjere, former Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) president Felix Jumbe, former MCP secretary general Betson Majoni, the party’s former director of political affairs Eston Kakhome and estranged secretary general Chris Daza.
Tembo is, however, technically and legally barred from contesting the presidency if the MCP constitution, which restricts one to two presidential terms, is anything to go by.
However, insiders have hinted at the possibility of the party’s constitution being amended to allow Tembo a third term.
Tembo presented his nomination papers on Wednesday, resting all speculation that he had withdrawn from the race and resigned from politics after serving as an active politician for more than four decades.
Tembo’s submission came after the official closure of the period for submitting nomination papers, but Chidaya said, as chairperson of the party’s NEC, Tembo has powers to extend the deadline for submitting the nomination from Tuesday to Thursday.
Said Chidaya: “The president is also the chair of NEC and has powers to extend the deadline. It may even go up to Friday because we don’t want to deny anybody a chance to contest.”
Reacting to the checklist, Chakwera said he has heard about the conditions. He said it is up to the party to approve his nomination or not.
When asked for his reaction to Tembo’s joining of the presidential race, Chakwera said: “He has the right to do so. Isn’t that so?”
In an interview, Munlo also said it is up to the party to tell him if he does not qualify to contest for the party’s presidency, but said he has been a long-time MCP member and held several party positions, including that of deputy secretary general, secretary general and legal adviser between 1992 and 2000.
He said: “I have never left MCP except when I got an international job in 2000 at the UN because I could not be in politics with that job. I also had to resign from politics when I was chief justice. If I don’t qualify, they will tell me.”
Munlo said he was also an MCP member when he served in various top positions in the late president Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s administration.
Political analyst Henry Chingaipe on Wednesday faulted Tembo’s late joining of the presidential race, saying it raises questions whose answers only the MCP leader knows.
“People who have been serious aspirants for the post submitted their papers well ahead of time. Tembo didn’t have to wait for an extension declared by him to submit his papers. It’s unfortunate that things have gone that way because he was supposed to lead by example by declaring his interest before the deadline,” said Chingaipe.