Mallick Mnela wears his heart on the sleeves one more time to write an open letter to Malawi President who is also DPP leader Peter Mutharika over remarks he made quashing intraparty political jostling happening in the DPP. In the letter, he argues how the absence of proper succession plans has always caused such unnecessary bickering. The fact that it might have worked previously, he warns, does not guarantee any future success given the precarious political environment Malawi has become.
Dear Mr. President,
Your Excellency Sir, pardon my candor in a society where big men like you are supposed to be revered, feared and sometimes even worshipped. Sir, do not blame my decision to contact you on poor upbringing. I was raised well. As a matter of fact, I just claim to enjoy my Constitutional right to free expression and, arguably, political participation. Luckily, Sir, since you swore to uphold and defend the Constitution, you will pardon my frankness and pay due attention. Your Excellency Sir, the matter I present before you requires your utmost attention. I believe it may be good for yourself, your party, the DPP and Malawi as a whole.
Upon arrival from your trip to London, you spoke about the need for unity in the DPP. You told those jostling for the party’s mantle, after expiry of your tenure, to hold on until your time is up.
Your Excellency Sir, I agree with you on one issue. Your party needs unity, especially at this juncture when it faces a political challenge that was never faced in the history of democratic Malawi. A party divided cannot face its opponents well. Therefore, your party followers should take heed of your caution and cease the bickering at once.
However, Sir, I vehemently oppose your idea of quelling the jostling and politicking within the party. Doing so would create prolonged tensions instead of resolving the issue once and for all. Your party’s failure to cure itself from the parasitic and infectious succession ailment that has rocked your party for a very long time can actually be normalized by your decision to gag intraparty politicking.
As a matter of fact, Sir, this ailment was inherited from the UDF. The UDF opted for your late brother Bingu Wa Mutharika (God rest his soul) after exporting him from outside the party. This, Sir, worsened divisions in the party because your brother, as it were initially, was a stranger among the rank and file of the UDF. And in hindsight, some say the decision to dump the UDF to establish the DPP was premised on the animosity, acrimony and disrespect he got from those that had waited in vain on the succession line.
Sir, postponing the succession debate now stifles people’s will to prevail. As far as intraparty democracy is concerned, leaders should not monopolize the next on the line for the sake of their posterity. The system should be allowed to thrive and allow the one with the most support to succeed the incumbent.
The problems at hand are similar to those encountered during the transition period that ushered your brother, perceived to be an outsider by most UDF old guards. The same was the case when you, Sir, were imported from the US to start the grooming as minister. Of course, your Excellency, it would be remiss of me not to credit your own political acumen as you successfully wrestled the presidency from Joyce Banda who had assumed office upon the untimely demise of your brother, Bingu.
Sir, the symptoms of a failed succession planning did not end even during your time. Your Excellency sir, you may recall how you sidelined your party’s most senior henchmen, some of them whom you had shared police cells during your incarceration during the Joyce Banda reign. In your wisdom, Sir, you opted for a politically “insignificant Chimulirenji”. In the absence of a process that favors accountability and transparency on who gets the button stick, internal bickering and disenfranchisement will be perpetuated.
Among peers, the question of whether Chimulirenji was a politician worth the mettle or not was addressed when he failed to secure a seat in Parliament in his Ntcheu constituency.
Your Excellency Sir, I can only speculate that those politicians going on an early succession campaign have no trust in the system and fear the succession button stick will go to another outsider, a complete stranger. In my considered view, Sir, this agitation is fueled by the uncertainty of a clearly laid down succession plan.
It happened to the late Bingu upon the pleasure of Bakili Muluzi, it happened to you after a very calculated succession plot by your brother, Bingu, and, Sir, Chimulirenji also benefited from the same succession anomaly under your leadership.
I am fully aware tradition in political parties vests almost all discretion upon the party leader. Actually, all previous party leaders have avoided the next in command within the party, opting to outsource. Remember how Joyce Banda of the PP dumped Khumbo Kachali opting for Sosten Gwengwe? How Muluzi of DPP dumped Cassim Chilumpha opting for the late Mutharika? Even the MCP roped in Sidik Mia to be Chakwera’s second in command!
You need no reminding, Sir, on how you sidelined all your second in command for the South, East, Centre and Northern regions on the party hierarchy? Sir, those on the hierarchy are the party’s workhorses. Sidelining them is indeed a source of organizational shocks. The best strategy is not always bypassing those who give their all for years only to get ignored when its time to compete for attention fairly.
Sir, in line with my Constitutional rights to free speech and political participation, I urge you to create room for healthy political maneuver in the DPP. I oppose any decision to gag party members from positioning themselves for the top post when you finally retire, whenever it will be. I also oppose any attempts to impose a successor on the supporters. There should be buy-in from the broader political establishment based on their ability to represent your party’s interests.
Sir, the political environment has undergone huge transformation. In view of the political forces acting against the DPP’s interests, the issue of succession should be among the priorities. Following the events in the aftermath of the 2019 elections, one would be inclined to think that the challenges would require making tough decisions – decisions that speak to the needs of the majority than a select few that are privileged to be within a whispering distance to you, Your Excellency.
Either the presidential elections case will be in your favor or the verdict goes against you, you will still need to reconfigure the succession plan in the DPP. Either way, the DPP needs a stronger candidate. Someone who can appeal not only to the DPP supporters but manage to rope in other supporters from elsewhere. This can not be postponed until later. Imposing your favorite, or depriving the party the opportunity to groom a favorite of many is nothing other than setting the party to “self-destruction mode”. This, Sir, means a dented legacy for you!
Thank you for your attention, Mr. President, Sir. I wish you the very best as you await the court verdict due any day in the week or earliest in the next. May God make life easy for you in the days to come.
Your Most Obedient Servant