The former ruling party, People’s Party (PP), of former President Joyce Banda, is facing a crisis of its lifetime. The party has divided itself into two factions, one led by its interim president, Uladi Mussa, and another led by the former Malawi Vice President, Khumbo Kachali. The genesis of this state of affairs started two months before the 2014 Malawi general elections. When Khumbo Kachali was one of the party founders and Vice President, President Joyce Banda opted to have Sosten Gwengwe as her running mate in the elections. It was a clear vote of no confidence from the president to her vice, the one she founded the party with. Divisions started. Wonderful Mkhutche weighs in on PP’s never-ending divisions and why the party should at all cost necessary avoid picking the Change Golo as Uladi is fondly called as Joyce Banda’s replacement.
Khumbo Kachali opted to support the PP’s fierce rival in the elections, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which went on to win power. After the loss, Joyce Banda left the country, leaving her party without a leader. In other words, she left a power vacuum. Joyce Banda, in truth, has suspiciously been outside the country for too long. The reasons being given by both her and her party is that she is afraid of her life when she steps back into the country and the government is yet to provide for her entitled retirement house. With the going on infamous Cashgate cases, in which she is repeatedly being implicated by the convicts, it is understood that the ruling DPP will use the case to pounce on her. They will use her as a political catch for other ends.
But the problem has been her trying to take two important roads at the same time. She is supposed to guard her safety by remaining outside the country while at the same time making sure that PP in Malawi is working and repositioning itself for the 2019 general elections. These two cannot go together. She needs to take one of them. While making sure that she is safe by staying away, she has been running her party by the remote control. The present world is connected using means like the internet. But in politics, nothing beats the strategy of physical presence. That is where people rally around their leader and go towards a single path. For close to two years now she has been doing that and the party has dearly paid for it. Several of its members have left. With no her around, the party seems to have no where it is going, hence the leaving.
Sensing danger, she has made a move, by appointing the only party vice president still standing, after the two had left, Uladi Mussa, to act as the interim party president. She has realized that her running the party from the distance will not work. There is a need for someone to be on the ground. He will be doing important things like political meetings, to rally the people to the political organization. But if she thought that would work, she was mistaken; things have turned for worse, for two reasons: First, the gap she left, and the differences that resulted from it, was too huge to be mended. The party has already taken the wrong turn. It is on a steep slope and it will be difficult to control it from falling into the valley. It has led to factions which have shown no signs of coming to terms any time soon. Second, and which is the most important reason why the party will continue losing the plot, is the man who has been placed in charge.
Uladi Mussa has been a Member of Parliament (MP) for his constituency from 1994, the year Malawi had its multiparty general elections as a third wave of democracy. While he has seen hundreds of MPs come and go, it is not proof enough that he is a good politician. Constituency politics and national politics are different. A constituency is limited in terms of geography, tribe and political opposition. At the national level, everything is different. The country is large, filled with people of different tribes and facing hundreds of political opposition figures, who are made of different hearts, intentions and ambitions. To be a success amidst all this it needs someone who is ready to compromise, stable, humble and ready to rise above all the differences with political wisdom.
The current PP interim president may have a twenty two year old experience in a public office, but he lacks the above qualities. Except for the ‘second-DPP’, Uladi Mussa has been a member of all the ruling parties in the post-1994 Malawi. He has been a cabinet minister in each one of them. That alone tells what kind of a man he is. He is not a stable politician, but a calculative one. This is the reasons why as the interim president, he will take the party nowhere. You can easily tell how much a man is insecure of his position by how much he treats those who he thinks are looking to be where he is. It is clear that some people in the party are looking for the position of president since Joyce Banda is away. They understand that she will choose not to contest as a presidential candidate. The one who secures the seat now has high chances of being on the ballot for the party in 2019.
Uladi Mussa has been harboring the ambition of being the president of Malawi for so long. If not that, he has at least tried to be the running mate. But everything has failed and this is the only opportunity he has as his political career looks heading to the end with the rise of the youths in politics. He knows how much threat Khumbo Kachali is to his ambition. Before he secures his position as the interim president he is making sure that Khumbo Kachali is at a distance. He has called him to be behind the Mzuzu PP meeting fracas two weeks ago. But he should have concentrated much on words that will build the party and not pointing fingers at his suspects. For that, with him, PP is going nowhere.
*Wonderful Mkhutche is an author, a political scientist and a manuscript developer and editor.