In December 2022, DPP President Peter Mutharika met his second in command in the southern region, Kondwani Nankhumwa at a political rally at St Augustine Ground in Mangochi. They shook hands.
It was after pockets of accusations and accusations that ‘their camps’ were out to outdo each other politically ahead of the party’s convention.
On July 3 2023, the two also shared a photo with some seemingly ‘forced’ smiles at Nkopola Lodge in the same district as the party held its National Governing Council-NGC meeting.
But one thing is clear. Nankhumwa stands determined to dare his boss at the now confirmed July 2024 elective convention if Mutharika finally makes up his mind to defend the presidency.
Nankhumwa, who is also Leader of Opposition in Parliament, has been so blunt with his intention to get the top seat and lead the party.
“I don’t care who stands and whether convention takes place in the atmosphere or in a tree, I as Kondwani Nankhumwa shall contest there and win,” once said Nankhumwa.
But will Mutharika, 81, view it as maturity of intra-party democracy? How about those who want him stay put?
What if Nankhumwa loses? Will he remain DPP and support Mutharika? Previously, Nankhumwa claimed he was not going to leave the party. Would he stick to that still or make new friends?
What if the delegates decide otherwise? Will Mutharika and his sympathisers swallow the bitter pill? This shall definitely be the defining moment for the DPP that has seen no peace since leaving government three years ago.
How about the other presidential aspirants? Will Joseph Mwanamveka, Bright Msaka, Dalitso Kabambe and Paul Gadama pluck enough courage to challenge Mutharika at the convention?
What if Mutharika is only mind games? Buying time and eventually endorse his preferred candidate? Democratic and progressive move?
For certain, a divided DPP might as well lose way before the September 2025 general elections and remain in opposition for another five years.
A Functional Review Committee that DPP’s Eastern Region Vice President, Bright Msaka chaired observed that as long as individuals put their factions and personal ambitions ahead of the party, that would be condemning the DPP to its slow death.
“Divisions and factions are a reality in our party. This makes it attractive to attack individuals we perceive to be our enemies. Although we deny it because we know that it is wrong, we are beginning to put personal interest ahead of the very party we seek to keep,” read part of the Committee’s report.
In fact, political scientist, Ernest Thindwa argued the party did not really need the functional review, but rather proper leadership and intra-party democracy.
University of Malawi-UNIMA professor of political and administrative studies Happy Kayuni told Nation Online that DPP should bring together all factions and move forward as a single bloc.
He said: “If they do not ignore recommendations emerging from real issues, then we will say that it will be on the road to recovery, but if they decide to ignore some, then there will be no movement.”
A recent Economist Intelligence Unit report doubted if the Malawi Congress Party-MCP regime would make it in 2025 elections citing kid glove treatment on corruption, disintegration in Tonse Alliance, high cost of living, bad economy and failure to fulfill campaign promises among others.
But is DPP a truly trusted option to manage state affairs? It got booted out of government over the same corruption, nepotism and executive arrogance among others. Has the party rebranded and repented enough? The silent cracks speak it all!
Another Associate Professor of Political Science at Unima, Boniface Dulani thinks the 2025 elections might as well be choice-less.
“It could be an election which I could describe as choice-less election because you have people who are frustrated and feel let down by the Tonse Alliance, but might also be remembering that the DPP is not much of an option,” he told Nation Online.
Mutharika, who recently regretted losing Saulos Chilima’s 20 percent votes after dumping the blue camp, holds the key to either unify or break the party further and fail to pose a real threat to the incumbent administration that also has a lot of convincing to make before being entrusted with another vote to manage state affairs.