Now that the Elections Case is temporarily off the air and almost a majority of Malawians are looking forward to Christmas and New Year festivities, one would expect political banter to subside a bit. Alas, No ways! This is Malawi. Everything revolves around politics. We love our politics!
During my conversations with people I encounter during my trips across the country, I have realized that there is growing pessimism across the political spectrum. People of diverse political backgrounds seem to believe politicians are cut from the same cloth. The only difference is they get dyed.
While every party seems to have a share of the misery of either divisiveness or mistrust, at least as far as I can tell, allow me to focus on the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
As I engaged people in some impromptu but well-designed discussions, it emerged that the DPP’s fast emerging “main enemy” is within. The party’s latent challenge is the simmering intraparty bickering as people jostle for positioning themselves to take over the mantle from the big man.
To the uninitiated, this will appear baloney on the face of it. To the political diehards it will be some insight that shouldn’t be out there while for some of us, it is stuff we can leverage to offer free, unsolicited advice to the party.
In the party, there is a subtle but fast emerging jostling for succession in the governing party. Get me right. Intraparty competition is good. It is welcome. However, carelessly or selfishly handled, such competition can be catastrophic. It can posit the party into self-destruction mode.
Mind you, President Peter Mutharika is on his last term in office. The Republican Constitution bars a third term for president. As a result, the party has a succession matter to resolve.
Logically, one would expect succession to favor any of the party’s regional leaders – Goodall Gondwe up north, Uladi Mussa in the center, Bright Msaka in the east or Kondwani Nankhumwa in the south.
However, the hierarchy of the DPP should not be seen as an automatic stairway to the party’s leadership. The echelons mentioned above were puzzled when president Mutharika picked the little-known Everton Chimulirenji.
If we follow precedence, Chimulirenji should not be over the moon, either. Former Vice President and now UTM leader Saulosi Chilima was once there. Legend has it he was fell out of Mutharika’s favor because of an “untamed ambition” to sit on his boss’ chair based on a promise that was allegedly made over a glass of a drink (not juice, obviously!) when the two first met.
Even before then, George Chaponda was very powerful. But there is a fable that he became a victim of his power and might. In no time, Kaloswe happened and, those who know him say his survival is only courtesy of his heavy investments at his constituency back at home.
There is a narrative that Chaponda’s downfall was orchestrated someone inside the DPP to pluck his feathers. Personally, I don’t detest whistle blowers. But if the story that the purging was from within, then something is surely wrong from the inside.
I think there could exist a group of “invisible party leaders” or those very close to President Mutharika that are pulling strings on who should be where in the party’s organogram. Whosoever pleases these people, earns the position.
Instead of marshalling all their might to the elections case or consolidation of grassroots structures in case the court rules that citizens go to the polling stations, some DPP leaders are working tooth and nail to position themselves as the next leader or as those endeared by such calculating leaders. Sadly, it seems to be working.
Age is catching up on one of the DPP leaders. Another is in court, which could be his political demise. One is in an almost perpetual mute zone, drowning his potential for visibility. Then there is this other prospective DPP leader: a lightweight, favored internally and submissive. Then there is this one: probably the most likeable outside the partisan scope, loyal, experienced but very vulnerable. This one, like Chaponda will have to brace for a purge or fight.
If you think my conspiracy theory is a flop, wait and see. So far, some people perceived sympathetic to some strongmen in the governing DPP have lost their jobs or are operating in a precarious zone for allegedly fraternizing or suspected to be sympathetic to wrong DPP members.
And watch the space, there is one minister. His ministry will witness unprecedented metamorphosis. A number of that minister’s subordinates will be purged, one by one. Some of the reasons given for the purging will be valid, others not. When that phase is done, they will turn the heat on him personally until the DPP turns into a furnace.
Of course, don’t take me seriously. I have a loud mouth! Actually, were it left for me to determine who, among the potential leaders, should lead the DPP after the lapse of Mutharika’s reign in 2024, I would not hesitate to say this is a premature question. I would advise that the party’s Succession Strategy be designed. Trust me, after the narrow, controversial and disputed 2019 victory by the DPP, the last thing the party needs is internal bickering. Cohesion is a foundation to rebuilding the party.
Otherwise, the “internal friendly enemies” should all brace for a bone wrenching impact. And the survival rate will be catastrophic, if all any will be blessed with the miracle to survive!