….APM failing to stamp authority
…did Nankhumwa commit political kamikaze
The Investigator Magazine analysis of the DPP civil war …
Leader of Opposition and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Vice President for the South Kondwani Nankhumwa might have committed political suicide, exposing his lieutenants within the party, and splitting from the main body after dozens of National Governing Council members failed to turn up for his meeting.
The meeting, however, exposed the absence of political strategy from the now main faction of the DPP led by party President Peter Mutharika, as it has been reacting, albeit, to Nankhumwa political theatrics- leaving DPP supporters on mute, as they fail to digest the on-going civil war in the former ruling party.
Looking at the Malawi political history, further splits, and fights within the DPP diminishes the capacity of the party to mount an effective campaign to dislodge the ruling Malawi Congress Party (MCP) which despite its unpopularity, still dominates as the active political machinery at the present.
Nankhumwa NGC could be political suicide
Kondwani Nankhumwa faction decision to call and eventually hold a National Governing Council (NGC) meeting was his biggest political test to measure the support of the party structures that are expected to propel him to the party presidency.
However, he missed one key lesson on Malawi politics- never trust a word of any politician and rely on them to make decisions in a fight. Dozens of them did what they are good at, promised to turn up, but were not bold enough to show their faces at the meeting.
Apart from Secretary General (now former) Gleselder Jeffrey, the other names with political capital were Nicholas Dausi and Cecilia Chazama, whilst the rest, including Uladi Mussa, Ken Nsonda and others are not serious political figures.
The turning up of 23 NGC members, not even 40% of the party decision making body undermined Nankhumwa’s position within the party and the fear that the other factions had that he had huge following in the party.
The DPP constitution, according to the party legal team has 120 NGC members while the list released by Jeffrey has 76 NGC members. The list by Jeffrey recognised Uladi Mussa who was replaced by Zeria Chakale appointed by the party’s Central Committee. The party appointed Jappie Mhango recently as Vice President North and he is recognised on Jeffrey’s list.
The inconsistence in recognising some of the appointments done by the party’s Central Committee and rejection of other, renders questions to the credibility of the faction’s claims.
Nankhumwa, in holding the NGC meeting finally blinked first, exposing his ardent loyalists to his rivals and poor turn up removed the mystery of his political strength within DPP decision making bodies.
The meeting, and its attendees, would find it challenging to attend any gatherings of the other faction, which now looks like it has the majority and the undecided group, who were waiting to see which side to jump to, according to its strength.
Already, the other faction has now shifted Jefrey to become Vice President for the Central Region and effectively clamp any constitutional powers she might have had in calling or managing the party.
The party constitution is clear on appointments, and by inviting those that were appointed by the Central Committee to the NGC meeting, the Nankhumwa faction indirectly endorsed the other appointments of the Central Committee which would be cherry picking to reject the other.
“He could have pushed for a meeting and stage a coup inside the party. As of now everyone knows who is backing him and the majority of DPP Executive members are unlikely to show up at his meetings because now they know how many supporters he has. It weakens his bargain power,” said The Investigator Magazine political analyst.
The NGC meeting by Nankhumwa faction took the party to a new uncharted path as this is the first direct challenge to wrestle power from the Mutharika’s who have been leaders of the party from its inception.
Looking at the strongman power politics, by crossing the line, Nankhumwa could have committed a political suicide as very unlikely, will the majority back him up.
The meeting emerged with a resolution to hold a convention on 15th and 16th December 2023, which could be another political bomb- damned if it happens and damned if it does not.
The convention will require a quorum to proceed and could only be deemed credible if the faction attracts heavyweights to compete in positions of President and other key positions. Electing members of Nankhumwa faction only would effectively mean they are out of the DPP mainstream.
The challenge is that Nankhumwa has set himself a task, that if he finally fails to attract people at the convention, he could be writing his political obituary and looking at the muted campaign with only six days to the convention, chances of holding a inclusive and credible convention are very limited.
Mutharika’s silence, reactionary team
With Nankhumwa faction NGC now pass, the DPP mainstream led by Mutharika seemed to have been jerked off from slumber and tried to take over the narrative for the former ruling party.
The party has been unusually silent, and the party leader has not, for unexplained reasons conducted party rallies to engage the party followers, especially as the economic and social conditions worsen in the country.
The Mutharika team has been dancing to Nankhumwa’s tune for better part of 2023, always responding to his actions and omissions that it has become predictable to see pro-Mutharika members conducting contradictory press conferences immediately after Nankhumwa faction.
The party has failed to conduct its structural meetings, leaving decision making to a few individuals and the lack of strategy has been apparent as botched attempts to fire Nankhumwa and company have all been resisted through courts.
The party’s response has been expulsion, disciplinary meetings and not face to face meetings which are a must in politics to solve any rising challenges. The same for the party convention, the decision to shave it should have been made at a special convened convention to ensure the decisions are binding.
The prohibition of campaign among Presidential aspirants closed the party from having a vibrant debate of ideas, instead very few rallies have happened to explain the DPP position on national matters. Former President Mutharka has only engaged three times this year- two presses conferences, attendance at Mulhako wa Lhomwe and tours of Cyclone Freddy victims. He has not addressed a political rally outside Mangochi district, where he resides, to engage with party supporters- something that would stamp his authority.
When Nankhumwa faction took an injunction against the NGC and further had the Courts rule that a convention should happen this year, the DPP Mutharika faction failed to mobilise and mount a political challenge. Instead, it was left only to Shadrec Namalomba to explain or rebuke the challenge.
The ruling by the Court should have started an activity and ursup Nankhumwas push for convention. They waited until it was too late.
The party has now shifted Jefrey and has asked its Secertary General to accuount sources of funds from well wishers she publicly announced, telling her it is an offence under the Political Parties Act.
The Mutharika team has held its own Central Committee and slated the NGC meeting for the 13 of December. The reaction to Nankhumwa’s meeting ordinarily should not have been there if the party was in front managing exceptions and developments as they emerge.
The faction cannot expect to be rapid recreation team to whatever Nankhumwa brings and fail to lead the narrative, decisions and not hiding from the public,
Split parties rarely win elections
Nankhumwa’s faction challenge raises the level of split within the DPP but with the crossed line, DPP should start looking at the possibility of a long term stay in opposition as any split would reduce its chances of attaining the now magical 50 plus 1 vote.
Recent political history in Malawi and within the region shows that split parties never win elections, which makes it imperative for the DPP to check itself before it finally sinks as others before it.
When Vice President Saulos Chilima was encouraged to challenge Mutharika in 2017, many predicted an earthquake and when he eventually left the DPP in 2018, only 11 senior members with names followed him. The majority decided to stay in comfort of a larger party.
President Mutharika acknowledged the split lost him a good number of votes, but were not enough to propel Chilima to win the presidency.
Chilima and Mutharikas votes In 2019 elections give a clear 50 +1 if they were running together. Chilima handed them over to President Lazarus Chakwera to end MCPs years in political wilderness.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) which was in opposition for well over a quarter of century, provides plenty of lessons why political fights end up in tears for those that cannot manage their egos.
In 1999, John Tembo did not support Gwanda Chakuambas campaign, openly telling MCP supporters in Central Region to “vote for MP and decide on Presidency.” He had been left out as running mate in favour of Afords Chakufwa Chihana.
In 2004, when then UDF was very unpopular, Chakuamba refused to play second fiddle to Tembo and left the MCP and formed his own Republican Party. The combination of Tembo and Chakuamba votes in 2004 gave a clear majority of 50 + 1.
In Zimbabwe, the dream of an MDC Government has ended at each election as party officials seek power at any cost ignoring logic. The splits in MDC in the previous elections have made it smaller everytime someone picks a piece of the party and form another MDC. The story is the same in Kenya and Botswana, where opposition splits gave ruling party greater advantage.
In Mozambique, delayed decisions in Renamo saw it loose everything. Not even one Province to manage.
Looking at 2025, with only one year and nine months to go, the DPP has less time to manage squabbles and launch an effective campaign. It needs to find a permanent solution to its differences before the end of 2023, which is less than 20 days away.
Otherwise, as Nankhumwa is taking his highest political gamble, so too are the fortunes of the whole DPP tied with the gamble, unless the party gets sober, sit down and work out a lasting agreement or split and move on.
Either way, the NGC meeting open a larger can of worms and possibility that could mark the DPPs reality check that it could last a while in opposition for failing to address the issues in time.
Voters don’t vote for the disorganised, as of now the former ruling party is beyond disorganised- it is breaking.