Malawi: Political Fossils Pushing DPP to Early Grave - of Nankhumwa's 'Byee' Disciplinary Hearing

21 September 2020

Since the immediate past President Peter Mutharika and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) were pushed out of government following the June 23 court-sanctioned fresh presidential polls, the party has been a theatre of some blockbuster entertainment.

First to come out was the pronouncement by the party's now suspended Secretary General, Grezelder Jeffrey that the party must work out on its leadership through a convention; that Mutharika has done his part and that he must retire. She was right. Mutharika is very old, an octogenarian who long lost touch with the people of Malawi.

Jeffrey was swiftly suspended and banished from even attending a senior executives' meeting, which was quickly cobbled up to deal with her issue.

The Central Committee of the DPP agreed at that meeting to call her to a disciplinary meeting, which is yet to take place.

Among the resolutions at that emergency executive meeting was the decision to fire Nicholas Dausi as Spokesperson of the party. They replaced him with Brown James Mpinganjira aka 'BJ'.

Henry Mussa, currently under police custody at the maximum Maula Prison for suspected theft when he served in government as Information Minister, was nominated as Mpinganjira's deputy, but refused to take up the position.

When asked about this, Mpinganjira (as the new Spokesperson) said Dausi had not been fired as the party's Spokesperson and that he is still 'Publicity Secretary' without clarifying the difference.

The latest episode is the summoning by a seemingly kangaroo DPP 'disciplinary committee' of the party's Vice President for the South, who is also Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Kondwani Nankhumwa, to a disciplinary hearing at Golden Peacock Hotel in Lilongwe on Friday, September 18, 2020.

Among the charges, Nankhumwa is accused of imposing himself on the Leader of Opposition in Parliament position when in fact APM, as Peter Mutharika is fondly called by the DPP faithful, had settled for George Chaponda; failure to disclose particulars of his background and education qualifications; and meeting Mama C. Tamanda Kadzamira "of MCP" without the consent of the party.

Charges merit

A quick analysis of the charges is that the issue of education qualifications does not make sense because all along, Nankhumwa has held senior positions in the party and government since he became an MP in 2009. It is surprising that he has suddenly become uneducated and unqualified.

In any case, if the disciplinary committee or anyone thinks Nankhumwa's qualifications are questionable, is the onus not on them to officially present evidence to prove their case? Indeed, Nankhumwa does not have to prove that he is an elephant but rather the 'accusers' must prove that Nankhumwa is an elephant.

One wonders how the issue of Nankhumwa imposing himself as Leader of Opposition in Parliament came about considering that when DPP was in power, he was Leader of Government Business in Parliament so it was natural for him to become Leader of Opposition when DPP shifted to opposition benches.

In any case, if the DPP leadership had not wanted him to be in that position, it would not have waited for him to be Leader of Opposition for almost three months without raising any objection.

The meeting with Mama C. Tamanda Kadzamira charge sounds empty too. The former Official Hostess for the late Dr. Kamuzu Banda has never been known to be an active politician and categorizing the meeting as a meeting of MCP and DPP politicians sounds ridiculous.

Anyway, the disciplinary hearing did not take place because Nankhumwa raised a concern that it consisted of people like Chaponda and Bright Msaka who he said were compromised by virtue of their apparent interest in occupying the position of Leader of Opposition in Parliament.

To say that the DPP is now at a critical juncture where it can make or break would be an understatement. What is now clear is that the line seems to have been drawn between the young guard, represented by the 42-year old Nankhumwa and the old guard represented by the 78-year old Chaponda who will be 83 in 2025 when the next national elections are due.

Party leadership tussle

Although it appears like the issue is about the position of Leader of Opposition in Parliament between Nankhumwa and Chaponda; it is much larger than that, and the players are not just the two.

Mutharika is serving his last term as President of DPP, and will not be on the ballot at the next election. It is clear that the former President of this country is old and not necessarily a sharp thinker.

In fact, he has always been prone to manipulation even during his heydays as President of the Republic as evidenced by some of the bizarre decisions he made, notably the appointment of little-known and illiterate Everton Chimulirenji as his running mate in the May 21, 2019 presidential polls.

What is happening in the DPP as highlighted above is practically war for the DPP presidency when APM leaves the stage. Among the contenders for the coveted position include Chaponda, Msaka, Nankhumwa and Uladi Mussa.

Football Association of Malawi (FAM) President, Walter Nyamilandu also seems to be gunning for the top job in the party.

There are also others that are playing critical roles in this odyssey. They include Mpinganjira and Henry Mussa.

However, even before he became Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Nankhumwa was already clearly the front-runner among the 'probables' to take over the leadership of DPP from Mutharika.

Opposition leader Nankhumwa is largely considered within the party and outside as a breath of fresh air and the most active among the four Vice Presidents for the party from the four political regions.

Nankhumwa has so far been consistent in his style of communication, which is always cool, calm and issue-based, something that has made him the rising darling of Malawian politics, and cultivated substantial support for him within the rank and file of the DPP.

As Leader of the House (the position he took over after Chaponda fell from grace following the (in)famous MAIZEGATE scandal), Nankhumwa has also been hailed by most parliamentarians from across the political divide as a go-getter, a result-oriented leader who always desires that things get done.

Nankhumwa has always been the 'go-to-man' on matters of DPP intra-party politics as well as outside of it.

Now the political terrain has completely changed. DPP has found itself crashing to the opposition with APM resting in Mangochi and Nankhumwa as Leader of Opposition in Parliament.

Nankhumwa is probably the only one among the DPP former Ministers currently retaining the glitz of being chauffeur-driven in a government vehicle with 24 hour Police protection by virtue of him being Leader of opposition.

This is bad news for his political adversaries for the DPP presidency because the position of Leader of Opposition places him further ahead in that race.

This is where the 'disciplinary hearing' and other schemes to 'politically finish' Nankhumwa are coming from. It is obvious that the obvious schemers are Mpinganjira, Chaponda, Msaka, Joseph Mwanamveka, Francis Mphepo and a panel of other old guards using Mutharika (yes he can be manipulated) as their handyman.

The first point of call is to take away the position of Leader of Opposition from Nankhumwa, and yes they are using the 82-year old APM; the second will probably be to remove him as a contestant at the next convention using the issue of certificate and 'education background' to try and make him ineligible for the presidency.

Bitterest BJ

But among Nankhumwa's adversaries, Brown Mpinganjira is the bitterest. It is apparent he has serious political scores to settle against Nankhumwa following his loss of the Mulanje Central parliamentary seat to the latter. Nankhumwa has beaten Mpinganjira to the seat twice, in 2009 and 2014.

BJ has since transformed Nankhumwa into his sworn enemy. The matter of Nankhumwa's qualifications is a concoction of BJ. According to recent media reports, BJ has been paying emissaries to sniff around for what he thinks are skeletons in Nankhumwa's cupboard to destroy his political career.

Recent reports indicated that Mpinganjira had sent emissaries to search for loopholes in Nankhumwa's academic qualifications at the Malawi National Examinations Board (Maneb). They found none.

It is highly probable that Mpinganjira may have convinced the 'disciplinary committee' to include the issue of education qualifications on the list of charges against Nankhumwa as a lethal weapon with which to disqualify him from competing for the top DPP leadership position. The other charges were a mere smokescreen.

BJ's hatred for Nankhumwa is confirmed in a recent audio recording where he and a senior United Democratic Front (UDF) official, Andrew Nkhana are discussing an intended merger between DPP and UDF.

Mpinganjira informs Nkhana that it is only KN (Nankhumwa) and Bright Msaka who are against the merger because of fear of competition from Atupele Muluzi of UDF at the convention. He emphasizes "the top (DPP) leadership is for it (merger)". The foregoing is a sad tale of a political party that only a few months ago governed the country. It is high time that the DPP, particularly the old guard, realizes that if this shadow-boxing continues, it will send the party to its early grave.

The earlier the better that the old guard realizes that despite his personal and political inadequacies, which everyone has, Nankhumwa embodies the party's youthful outlook and that he is actually a big plus to the party in its rebuilding efforts.

Nankhumwa is DPP-bred with inside knowledge of the party; an ambitious young man who has proven to be a performer as MP, cabinet minister, Leader of the House, Leader of Opposition in Parliament and party Vice President.

Most importantly, Nankhumwa has been unquestionably loyal to both the late President Bingu wa Mutharika, Peter Mutharika and the larger vision of the party.

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