DPP: A Card House?

By now, every Malawian knows that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leadership succession battle has blossomed into a full-blown malaise that has been playing out in the public domain for some time. This time, the battle has been taken further to the arena of Parliament of Malawi.

The DPP internal strife now ought to be a matter that concerns all Malawians. Initially, the party President, Arthur Peter Mutharika or APM, sounded like a democrat, ready to leave the stage for someone younger and more energetic through a democratic party convention so that he can retire and spend time with his great-grandchildren. 

Hopefuls for the party’s Presidency came out to campaign for the top job in the party. Among them: Joseph Mwanamvekha, Bright Msaka, Dalitso Kabambe, Kondwani Nankhumwa mounted spirited campaigns until Mutharika made a sudden about-face.

He announced that he changed his mind and that he will stand again. Implicitly, it meant all presidential hopefuls should stand down to pave the way for the big man. And that if ever there would be a convention, it should be there just to rubber-stamp Mutharika’s candidacy. 

However, when one candidate, Kondwani Nankhumwa, challenged Mutharika to a duel at the convention, APM and his team came down on him guns blazing and descended on him like a ton of bricks.

They became agitated, demonized Nankhumwa as a rude boy and ungrateful, calling him all sorts of names. They changed laws (goalposts) to ensure that the convention either does not take place or tried all means to kick him out of the party.

The duel included numerous court battles that either helped to keep Nankhumwa and his compatriots in the party or restrained the APM camp from expelling Nankhumwa from the party.

I’m not sure what started between one of the injunctions (there are too many) expiring or Nankhumwa and compatriots attending an NGC meeting (which the APM camp considered illegal), but the courts discharged one of the injunctions whereupon a loophole was created giving chance to the APM camp to summon Nankhumwa to a disciplinary hearing and eventually firing him from the party.

Now we are here

The firing of Nankhumwa from DPP (he is also contesting this one at court), according to the DPP, meant that he could no longer hold the position of Leader of Opposition because he is no longer a member of their party. 

The issue, despite initially appearing straightforward, turned out to be more complex than anticipated. Apparently, there was an injunction on the head of George Chaponda, whom the party had chosen to replace Nankhumwa. 

DPP tried to circumvent this by appointing Thyolo Thava Constituency MP, Mary Navicha, to be the Leader of Opposition. However, that did not work either because, according to legal interpretation, it is the DPP, which is restrained from appointing the Leader of Opposition until the Nankhumwa question is resolved.

It appears now that DPP has decided to take their full internal war to the holy gates of Parliament, where it is currently playing out to the extent that Speaker Catherine Gotani Hara was forced to crack the whip on 24 MPs from the DPP for rudeness and lack of respect. 

According to George Chaponda (who says he is also a lawyer), DPP would no longer respect the court order because their party interests come first. They made noise even outside parliament, and their de-facto Leader of Opposition, Mary Navicha, delivered what the party called its own response to the SONA under the tree outside parliament to the media.

The Implications of DPP Fight

There is an African proverb, which says, ‘It is easy to catch a hare with a drum.’ If there was ever a chance of the DPP bouncing back to prominence in this country, then let me report that that chance has been scuppered.

The first problem the DPP faces is the belief that if APM were on the ballot, the party would win the next election. This is a fallacy because APM cannot win any election in this country. Despite his advanced age, his record of being an absent leader who stands aside while his lieutenants plunder public coffers is still fresh.

No one has forgotten the blatant practice of tribalism, nepotism, including regionalism and corruption, which was the order of the day under APM. No one has forgotten how the DPP disrespected court orders. No one has forgotten how cadets could go about beating people in town, sometimes in full view of the police without the law enforcers doing anything just because they didn’t agree with their point of view.

The biggest mistake the DPP is making is thinking that just because the current government is facing some economic challenges, they have a chance of making it in 2025. This is very far from reality.

The APM camp must understand that the political terrain has significantly changed. Over 60 percent of the population are youth, and they will not be voting for an 85-year-old in 2025. APM has never been, and will not be the custodian of the future of the youth in this country.

The DPP had a chance to rebrand, and that rebranding ought to have started with a change of leadership. That chance has been fumbled because APM is greedy and wants all the goodies for himself like a chicken swallowing its own eggs.

If Nankhumwa goes out of DPP he will not go alone. If the party thinks Nankhumwa’s departure would not put a dent in the party’s support base in the Lhomwe belt, then they must think again.

Like a game of cards, the party is most certainly about to crumble and split into pieces. APM and his team of octogenarians remain with just a small piece of a much larger DPP piece.

*The author is writing in his own personal capacity*

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