Malawi’s main opposition party fights over leadership

By Penelope Paliani Kamanga

Leadership squabbles that had been brewing in Malawi’s main opposition party, Malawi Congress Party (MCP), reached equilibrium last week when rival factions could not agree on whether or not to hold a convention to solve the matter ahead of 2019 general elections.

MCP Secretary-General Gustav Kaliwo had last week called for an urgent convention to resolve various concerns that have rocked the country’s oldest party which was found by the late Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda.

The convention that was scheduled to be held early July 2017 was going to among other things elect a new president.

Kaliwo, a lawyer by profession, said at a press conference that according to powers vested in him and with support from more than half of the party chairpersons, it was proper for him to make the announcement for the convention, before things get out of hand ahead of 2019 general elections.

He said as the party-keeper, it was wise and proper to listen to the demands of the people for the convention as stipulated in the MCP constitution.

“I know this decision might not please others who might resolve to insults, legal battles and confrontations. This will just waste the little resources the party has. I would rather ask all concerned parties on this matter to hold public debates that the audience must rectify this decision of calling a convention,” said Kaliwo.

He said members of the party in 23 committees in various districts across the country requested him to call for the convention.

He said according to Article 40 of the MCP constitution, an emergency convention can be called by the party’s two thirds majority of NEC or at the request of more than half of the district committees.

“Therefore, for this decision I have taken the mandate given to me by the party’s district committees who are calling for the convention.

“I am sure there are some people who will not agree with me, but we stand on a strong legal ground because the constitution permits my doing this,” said Kaliwo

“I have been patient enough not to act on the Party chairpersons’ concerns rocking the party.

I tried to seek an audience with my president Lazarus Chakwera, but on several occasions he has been avoiding me,” said Kaliwo.

However, the party regional chairpersons, while calling for the resignation of Kaliwo, trashed the call for the convention, describing it as invalid. They insisted that only the party’s national executive committee (NEC) had the mandate to call for a convention.

Eastern Region MCP chairperson Hurry Mchilima, speaking on behalf of the chairpersons, said Kaliwo had no mandate to call for a convention under the constitution of MCP.

He said Kaliwo had no mandate at all to call for a convention adding that after all he has not been active in MCP.

The chairperson suspected that Kaliwo was being used by some political parties who want to split the party.

Mchilima said the party was surprised to note that Kaliwo used a hired car from Avis and managed to accommodate all the delegates from various district.

“Where did Kaliwo get all the finances? This means that what we have been hearing that he has been paid money from government to destabilise MCP is true,” said Mchilima.

Taking his turn, Central Region MCP chairperson, Patrick Zebron Chilondola, said MCP is the most democratic party in this country.

“We go to convention every five years, there is nothing new we will go to convention at an appropriate time,” he said.

Chilondola said MCP does not fear a convention because “all the regions already agreed that Chakwera will be the torch bearer come 2019”.

May 2017
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