Some partners in the governing Tonse Alliance have gone dirty by openly attacking each other as the battle to consolidate parliamentary strength through the October 26 2021 by-elections rages.
Political analysts have said the sentiments expressed during political rallies by Malawi Congress Party (MCP), UTM Party and Freedom Party (FP) officials point to deepening mistrust in the bloc.
In separate interviews, the leadership in UTM and MCP agreed with political analysts that allowing parties in the alliance to contest independently during by-elections has tested their unity.
UTM Party spokesperson Frank Mwenifumbo, while expressing hope that his party would triumph in the by- elections, said challenges in the alliance remained.
“Issues of by-elections have caused a lot of problems, I must admit, starting with Karonga Central Constituency. That is where the unity of the alliance was tested,” he said.
In Karonga, the contention was also mostly between Tonse Alliance main partners MCP and UTM party. The campaign, however, was marred with violence that resulted in the injuries of 12 people.
However, MCP spokesperson the Reverend Maurice Munthali condemned sentiments that MCP is the only party running government, saying such views do not represent what was agreed in the alliance.
He said: “Those are individual remarks and we cannot be dwelling on such remarks. When it comes to individual remarks, let them be, but at that end of the day, we will all agree that we are working together to serve the people of Malawi.”
In an interview, political analyst Humphreys Mvula argued that the war of words in Tonse Alliance is a result of lack of dialogue.
He said: “When starting the alliance, they did not put together an elaborate memorandum that would guide the alliance. If they did, they have not operationalised it in a manner that possibly they are regularly meeting to sort out small issues.”
Recently, UTM and FP officials accused MCP of hoodwinking voters that it was the only party in government.
At the weekend, events took a new turn when a UTM official in Dedza blamed Tonse Alliance leader and the country’s President Lazarus Chakwera for the rise in prices of fertiliser under Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP).
The official claimed that Vice-President Saulos Chilima—who was running mate to Chakwera in the court-sanctioned fresh presidential election held on June 23 2020—is not part of those who have raised the prices. He likened the Vice-President to a bus conductor who does not have control over how a vehicle is being driven.
But speaking during the launch of the 2021/22 AIP in Chiradzulu on Saturday, Chakwera responded to criticism on the price of fertiliser, saying the review in pricing responds to the prevailing economic environment.
He said government makes necessary assessments to ascertain if the changes are responding to the prevailing economic factors while maintaining the goal of making the inputs affordable to farmers.
Among some of the price changes is that of fertiliser which has risen from K4 495 last year to K7 500 per 50 kilogramme bag in the 2021-22 growing season.
At another rally in Nkhotakota North East Constituency on September 19, UTM national campaign director Maquenda Chunga also accused MCP of using the youth empowerment card to garner votes.
Last Sunday at a political rally in Mzimba East to drum up support for his party’s candidate John Chuma Phiri, FP leader Khumbo Kachali attacked UTM and MCP, accusing the Tonse Alliance leadership of backtracking on their promises.
He said: “Today, everybody is complaining, everybody. When the rains start, we will see how you will buy fertiliser. I thought you said K5 000, so we will see. What is the price now?”
Kachali’s audience responded that fertiliser was now at K40 000 per bag.
The by-elections will be held in Nkhotakota North East Constituency, formerly held by late Martha Chanjo Lunji of the DPP who died on July 13 2021, Dedza Central East Constituency, formerly held by late Mcsteyn Swithin Mkomba of MCP who died on July 27.
Another one will be held in Mzimba East Constituency which fell vacant following the death of independent MP, Wezie Gondwe. In Chimwalire Ward in Balaka South Constituency, there will also be a local government by-election following the death of councillor Josephy Daniel of the DPP.