Malawi Standard (Blantyre)

4 May 2004

Malawi: Opposition Mgwirizano Coalition Winning Formula Crushes

Blantyre — Malawi's Mgwirizano Coalition ambitious plan to win Presidential elections and a Parliamentary majority in the forthcoming elections is working in retrogression as struggle for seniority and fame plus regionalism threatens to break it further.

"The thorny issue here is for those perceived to be weaker candidates to withdraw in the parliamentary race as a winning formula. It came too late when many people had already spent a lot of money campaigning," said Ben Chakhame PPM shadow MPs chairman revealing about 102 MPs from his party are not ready to withdraw.

"Its all because of putting wrong priorities first," argued Salule Masangwi, NDA Spokesman.

On the other hand, Chakuamba and Aleke Banda are being accused of trying to manipulate the system in favour of their People's Pregressive Movement (PPM) and Republican Party (RP), the two parties with majority shadow MPs to make sure they become the strongest among the seven.

However, almost all the other five feel their candidates are the strongest and if the process of choosing the most popular is done democratically, they should contest in most constituencies.

Robson Munlo, Mafunde spokesperson said in an interview that his party is already number one in terms of the strength of its shadow parliamentarians.

"Mafunde managed to field strong candidates who are doing very fine in every respect. Talk of Mzuzu City, Nkhoma, Balaka, and Mwanza. We can't compete with many of these candidates from the other parties because many of them are very weak," he said.

Mafunde president George Nnesa said in an earlier interview that their strength stands on the fact that they sensitised their candidates from the beginning.

"We actually managed to trim our number from 70 down to 22 when other parties were just funding for everyone," said Nnesa who revealed that each of the seven parties would be contesting independently in parliamentary elections.

Nnesa said it was possible that most people might not wish to withdraw "because it's not just a matter of towing the party line for the sake of it."

"I don't believe that every one may just say yes because the grouping has decided so. Different people have different feelings," he pointed out.

But PPM Secretary General Knox Valera is not very optimistic of having the majority of his shadow MPs contesting but threatens that his party would revoke the membership of all its aspirants who still owe their allegiance to the fired First Vice President, Justin Malewezi.

"The problem is that people want to remain PPM while supporting other things. The PPM position currently is that we shall ask for their stand if they don't change, we shall definitely review their membership," he said.

"But the good thing is that we went in the constituencies to know who can contest and we know the position, of course some where it was difficult," he conceded.

Meanwhile, Mgwirizano Coalition has lost its Southern Region Deputy Chairman James Mmadi who resigned from the National Unity Party where he was also Regional Chairman and defected to the ruling UDF together with the party's National Youth Director Fanizo Makumba, formerly UDF Blantyre Vendors Secretary.

They both accuse NUP of being undemocratic and diverting from its earlier promise when the party approached them to join.

"I was told that NUP would work with the ruling party and when they decided to join the opposition I felt cheated. The problem is that NUP president (Harry Chiume) makes most of his decisions from his house," they claimed.

And, according to the two, NUP Vice President Grace Kathingo would follow suit.

In his resignation letter addressed to the party Secretary General Hurry Muyenza, Mmadi cites regionalism as the reason for his decision among other things.

He alleged in an interview that the party failed to fund for his candidature in Chiradzulu citing financial problems when it actually paid for all those contesting in the north where the party president Hurry Chiume hails from.

However, Muyenza said he had not yet received the letters while dismissing the claims on regionalism and that the party paid for other candidates as lies.

Makumba alleged the party lacks transparency in its activities while saying that he was tired of pumping his own funds into the party that operates from Chiume's home.

On the withdrawal of the weak candidates as a winning formula for the Mgwirizano, Muyenza said most of the NUP MPs are strong enough to make it above the other Mgwirizano candidates.

Kamuzu Chibambo, president of the People's Transformation Party (Petra) who is one of the few senior members of the Mgwirizano accused by the Mgode party of not giving chance to the sitting MPs, said he was ready to withdraw. "Some of us will have to sacrifice. After all, some of us are not in politics because we don't have anything to do.

I am a professional and if I am to withdraw its not because of popularity but for the benefit of Mgwirizano," said Chibambo. He is contesting in Mzimba in a constituency where the AFORD break away, Mgode has Kaonga who has served there for the past ten years as an MP.

Mgode Secretary General, Rodger Nkhwazi has already made the party's stand clear that all its candidates are not withdrawing.

Mgode has accused the grouping of being undemocratic and playing hide and seek. According to reports, PPM president Aleke Banda who is Chakuamba's running mate has refused to pave way for Mgode president Sam Kandodo Banda in Nkhata Bay south, while RP Vice President Bazuka Mhango is contesting against Mgode National chairman, Greenwell Mwamondwe in Karonga.

Kandodo Banda said in an interview that it was unfortunate that Aleke refused to withdraw.

"But wait for May 18 and I will definitely win," he said.

RP officials could not be reached by phone as most of their phones could not be reached, but according to Valera, it is not possible for Chakuamba to use the system for the benefit of his party.

"If the selection is done democratically, I don't see how that would happen," he said.

"But already democracy is at stake here. You don't make decisions that affect the general public in the boardroom," argues Salule Masangwi whose party refused to join.

In an interview recently, Mgwirizano spokesperson Kholiwe Mkandawire said their was no single party which was dominating in the affairs of the grouping and was also sure that people would not find it difficult to withdraw if perceived weak.

There are a total of 392 people vying for the 193 seats from Mgwirizano. PPM is fielding 112, seconded by RP 110, followed by NUP with 99 candidates, Mafunde comes fourth with 21, Petra is fifth with 18 candidates and Kamlepo Kalua's MDP has 10 candidates.

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