Hon Folks, I am not surprised the spat between APM and Balaka North MP Lucius Banda has metamorphosed into a rift between the latter and his own party, UDF.
UDF openly bashed the MP in a press statement on Tuesday, describing his stand on the DPP and UDF coalition as “distorted”, meant to bring “disunity” in the party. Banda was warned that UDF won’t tolerate his “negative comments” any longer.
Why is UDF angry on APM’s behalf? In fact, it’s APM who started it all at a rally in Mangochi on Saturday, calling Banda “one misguided MP” who opposed the idea that UDF and DPP should work together in government.
Banda hit back the following day, saying “I believe the President’s comments were made out of ignorance because he is misguided and ill-advised.”
In fact, his argument makes sense. He says as a member of the UDF executive committee, he has not seen any coalition agreement document defining terms of reference for the partnership nor is he aware of coalition talks taking place between the two parties.
Shouldn’t UDF, as a democratic party that led the first multi-party democratic government, simply provide answers instead of threats?
By moving to the government side in Parliament, UDF MPs can’t provide checks and balance to the Executive. The party doesn’t respond to the President’s State of the Nation address or finance minister’s National Budget.
True, UDF president Atupele Muluzi has a portfolio in the Cabinet and one or two other senior members, including party publicist Ken Ndanga are serving as parastatal board members. If they are contented with that then their decision is based on what’s-in-it-for-me, a syndrome that is at the core of woes as a nation.
Banda’s argument that UDF has not entered into any partnership, let alone coalition, is right, very right. A coalition is a working relationship between two parties. It happens through negotiations, not recruiting the party president as a Cabinet minister.
Although in Malawi it is hard to distinguish political parties based on ideologies, there is no denying that parties contesting in general elections do have their own manifestos. Ung’ono ung’ono, as Atupele was fondly called by his youthful supporters, and the MPs who won on UDF ticket, based their campaign promises in the run-up to the 2014 tripartite elections on UDF manifesto, not DPP’s.
A coalition would have been negotiated around the two manifestos, of course taking cognizance of the fact that it is DPP that won the presidential elections and that DPP enjoys a numerical supremacy of seats in Parliament.
As it is, it’s the UDF MPs who went to the government side without any negotiated deal who are misguided, selfish and divisive.
They betrayed the trust of those who voted for them by virtually defecting en masse to the government side, destroying the identity and clout of their party in the process.
But Banda would be naive to assume he has the winning card. That could’ve been the case had UDF been democratised. As it is, it may be the third largest party in Malawi but it belongs to former president Bakili Muluzi and his son, Atupele.
What these two want goes. Once-upon-a-time as he approached the end of his tenure, Bakili wanted an unconstitutional third term. Senior UDF cadres rightly opposed him and in fury, he went outside the party, handpicked Bingu and made him UDF presidential candidate.
When Bakili finally had to retire from active politics altogether, he ensured the baton goes to nobody else but his own son, Atupele. Those who dared raise eye-brows ended up out in the cold and, for some, that marked the end of their political careers.
If he speaks another word, Lucius may be booted out of UDF. The partnership between DPP and UDF may not be valuable to democracy but it’s extremely valuable to Atupele, Bakili, the likes of Ndanga and DPP which desperately wants the Eastern Region in its fold in 2019. n