Malawi: Joyce Banda Shocked With PP Membership Decline

Former Malawi President Joyce Banda (file photo).

Former president Joyce Banda is reportedly shocked to learn that her People's Party (PP) has lost many key party officials who defected to other parties and the general membership decline at the grassroots and the attempts to lure them back is proving too difficult since she returned to Malawi on 28 April after her four year's absence.

Since her homecoming, she has been holding regional conferences for the party almost exactly a year before Malawi's elections scheduled for May 2019.

But party sources told Nyasa Times that Banda is "shocked" that the party has los strength in membership and several pillars have fallen away.

She says she will be seeking the presidential nomination of her PP, which she founded in 2011. Given that she has no real competition within its ranks, her endorsement would be a formality.

"She has a bigger challenge in rebuilding the party, which has suffered several significant defections in her long absence, mostly to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). She is daunted by this challenge as PP is failing to attract its lost membership back or new members since she returned," the top official added.

Meanwhile, PP Secretary General Ibrahim Matola has said the party's actionable executive committeee is te to meet to decide whether Banda - who has never won any presidential race - can have another presidential run.

"The party has decided to first hold regional meetings with its members before proceeding with the NEC meeting," Matola said.

He disclosed that PP concluded its regional consultantI've meetings in the Eastern Region last week.

If Banda runs for president again, she will face an uphill battle. In the 2014 elections, Banda did not only fail to win, thus becoming Malawi's first incumbent president to lose elections since the dawn of multi-party democracy in 1994, but came a distant third.

Banda's two years in power, from 2012-14, will always be synonymous with the cashgate scandal, which revealed the systematic looting of public money by civil servants, private contractors and politicians.

The former president has always denied having a hand in the theft of around $31 million, which began before her presidency, but she has been implicated in the testimonies of several individuals who have been convicted. Many presume her four-year sex exile was due to her fear of arrest.

Though she claimed since her return home that she has been cleared of any involvement in cashgate, but the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has denied this is the case. Its investigators say they are still reviewing the evidence. It is possible they will end up summoning her regardless of what they find under political pressure from the government.

In 2011, Banda, who was then vice-president, defected from the DPP after refusing to endorse Peter Mutharika's bid to be the next president. Then, in 2012, the two briefly tussled for power after President Bingu wa Mutharika died suddenly. Banda, who retained her vice-presidential role despite leaving the ruling party, became president in accordance with the constitution.

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