Just like any member of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika retains the entitlement and right to contest for the position of party President at the next national convention. However, some members of the party believe such a decision must come from Mutharika himself and not from a few individuals within the upper and middle ranks of the party merely for their own selfish reasons.

The members believe time has come when members of the party who wish Mutharika well should stand up and openly rebuke those that want to abuse the old man for their own personal benefit.

Four rank members interviewed separately in all DPP’s four political regions of north, centre, east and south, have said while the party is undergoing a leadership transition process and going through some kind of obvious storm, it is unfortunate that some officials are taking deliberate moves to undermine intra-party democracy within the entire process by imposing Mutharika on the party.

The four senior regional officials, who preferred anonymity for obvious reasons, heaped blame on the party’s national organizing secretary Chimwemwe Chipungu, administrative secretary Francis Mphepo, Member of Parliament (MP) and Mutharika’s spokesperson Shadric Namalomba, MP George Chaponda, Mutharika’s personal security guard Norman Chisale, treasurer general Jappie Mhango, and former Malawi Electoral commissioner Jean Mathanga for “forcing” Mutharika to contest for the party’s leadership instead of allowing him to enjoy a decent retirement having served the country as Head of State for six years.

The regional officials believe that the fact that APM, as he is fondly called by the DPP faithful, has not openly indicated so far any intention to contest, shows that he has seen through the machinations of “these evil musketeers, and has stood his ground”.

“The problem is that these evil men and woman are doing their scheming openly and loudly in broad daylight while those that wish APM well and would want him to retire peacefully, are expressing their opinions behind closed doors and in muted voices. Time has come for those that love APM and the DPP to come out openly and loudly to protect APM from the machinations of the evil musketeers.

“Time has come for those that wish APM a decent retirement to drown out the voices of the evil people that want to hijack the party by using APM as a front. APM must be protected from Chipungu, Namalomba, Chisale, Jappie Mhango, Mathanga, Chaponda and Mphepo. Evil happens when good people remain silent,” said a member from the eastern region.

An independent Blantyre-based political commentator, Elias Chikaola, said as much as there are people within the top leadership of the party that have their own preferred leadership candidate, including APM, it becomes a problem when they begin to manipulate ground rules to give their preferred candidate an unfair advantage.

“If some leaders want to impose their preferred candidate, I do not think the DPP will have a fair election at the convention. Such people must allow democracy to thrive and ensure that the playing field is level for all candidates in line with the party’s constitution, and for the benefit of DPP supporters,” said Chikaola.

He observed that so far, the leadership battle has been the main source of polarization in the party as people are positioning themselves for the top position.

“This is normal in democracies anywhere in the world, but it needs strong leadership to ensure that the campaign for the presidency is not a source of conflict and enmity. Rather, it must be a process that deepens intra-party democracy.

“The DPP needs strong leadership, which is impartial and focused to unite the party, and take it to the next level of its democracy. Unfortunately, today, the party has reached a stage where Mr Francis Mphepo can just wake up and make critical decisions or issue decrees on his own without even consulting the party’s National Governing Council (NGC), or the rank and file, and thereafter christening his decisions as being from the party. It’s chaotic,” said the political commentator.

Members who have announced their intention to contest for the party’s presidency include DPP vice president for eastern region, Bright Msaka, vice president for southern region, Kondwani Nankhumwa, former finance minister, Joseph Mwanamvekha, former Reserve Bank of Malawi governor, Dalitso Kabambe, and businessman Paul Gadama.

The party’s NGC is expected to meet on Saturday, June 24 at Sunbird Nkopola in Mangochi to map out the way forward with regard to the party’s national convention.

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