Our cultural adage says that no matter how dark the night may appear, a new day with the full light follows.
It is no longer a secret that the once mighty Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has been riddled with leadership and succession squabbles for the past two years. It appears like dust has begun to settle in the main opposition party.
At the centre of controversy were Kondwani Nankhumwa on one camp and Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika (APM), the current party president on the other camp.
It is on record that Kondwani Nankhumwa was agitated when APM preferred Dr. Dalitso Kabambe, a renowned economist to be his successor.
Unlike Kondwani Nankhumwa who had held many political party positions such as Vice President for the Southern region, Leader of opposition in Parliament and a member of National Governing Council (NGC), Dalitso Kabambe has never held any political position in the party.
Kondwani Nankhumwa therefore felt unfair and undemocratic to pave way to Dr. Dalitso Kabambe as the next torchbearer of the party. Frankly speaking, this sounds logical.
Perhaps the problem lay on the way Kondwani handled his discontent with APM’s preferred successor.
Furthermore, when APM expressed his interest to be the torchbearer of the party, Kondwani decided to challenge the party president head on by convincing the erstwhile Secretary General, Grezelder Jeffrey to call for an elective party convention.
This was not the first time when Kondwani Nankhumwa openly challenged the party president, APM.
There was a time he conducted a political rally in the Southern region without even informing the party president.
In fact, at one political rally, he used Bingu wa Mutharika’s face on the party cloth instead of the current party’s president as is the norm.
Furthermore, during a televised interview, Kondwani Nankhumwa admitted that it was the Speaker of the National Assembly who had handpicked him to be the Leader of Opposition in Parliament as a ‘precautionary measure’.
The normal procedure was for DPP to officially write to the Speaker of the National Assembly submitting the name of the preferred leader of opposition.
When the party wrote to the Speaker preferring Dr. George Chaponda as the Leader of Opposition, Kondwani rushed to the court for an injunction.
Even when Kondwani was expelled from the party for not attending the DPP internal Disciplinary committee hearing , the court granted him an injunction too.
The truth of the matter is that court injunctions propagated incessant squabbles in DPP.
However, the recent court rulings that endorsed APM’s decision to reshuffle NGC members ushered in a sense of sanity in the party.
Analytically, the recent expulsion and suspension of some DPP gurus owing to their gross indiscipline is welcome because it will deter future potential culprits from undermining the authority of the party president.
Without much ado, what lessons can we learn from the fracas in DPP?
Our lessons are referenced to Robert Greene who published a book titled ‘48 laws of power’. It is recommended that every politician must read this book although some laws of power need to be applied with caution.
Frist, never outshine the master
Popularity and wealth prevented Kondwani Nankhumwa from appreciating that APM was still his political mentor and DPP party president.
Even though the tenure of office for DPP executive positions expired, the DPP constitution states that the party president remains in office till he hands over the mantle to his successor.
Frankly speaking, it was APM and his elder brother Bingu who had groomed Kondwani from grassroots level politics up to the extent of holding senior positions in the party such second vice president and Director of elections.
Second, conceal your intentions
It is widely believed that politics is a hide and seek game of tricks, distrust and dribbles.
If Kondwani Nankhumwa wanted to take over the party, he would have concealed such intentions by remaining loyal to the party president while organising internal parallel structures in the party.
Bingu wa Mutharika remained loyal to Bakili Muluzi who was promised to be protected from prosecution. But when Bingu finally became the State President, he publicly dumped Muluzi and the United Democratic Front (UDF).
Third, always say less than necessary
A hide and seek game of politics requires patience, composure and responsibility.
Kondwani Nankhumwa and his team were always unnecessarily vocal.
In all his senses how could Kondwani go full throttle in public claiming that they had taken over the party from APM? Yet he knew that the judges and justices who would determine his court case were listening attentively.
Fourth, use selective honesty and generosity to disarm your victim
This is where the game of politics becomes interesting.
Sir Newton Isaac discovered that if you apply a force to a target, you will get an equal and opposite force.
In the same vein of logic, if Kondwani Nankhumwa disguised himself to be honest and generous to the party leadership, it would have been difficult for the party to suspect his diabolical intentions of coup d’état.
Fifth, keep others in suspended terror: cultivate an air of unpredictability
During the DPP’s fracas, APM was utterly silent and many people thought that his meekness was a sign of weakness.
However, nobody predicted his move that he would invoke DPP constitution to reshuffle some members of the NGC.
On the other hand, every Nana and Nene predicted every Kondwani’s move. In fact, his consolation, hope and strength rested on court injunctions.
It did not require a renowned philosopher or logician that when the courts get tired of Kondwani’s babyish groans, that would be his adverse turning point in his political career.
Sixth, know who you are dealing with. Do not offend the wrong person.
It seems like Kondwani Nankhumwa failed to distinguish between APM as a person and APM as a party president.
Did Kondwani Nankhumwa actually know which APM’s capacity he was fighting against?
Seventh, use the surrender tactic: Transform weakness into power.
Kondwani Nankhumwa would have been more tactical by evaluating every step he took.
When he discovered that the coup d’état would not be successful, he would have surrendered earlier. It is widely believed that if you cant fight them, just join them
Eighth, keep your hands clean. Never do the dirty work yourself.
Kamuzu Banda and John Tembo were acquitted in the Mwanza murder case simply because there was no evidence that implicated them. Candidly speaking, there is a high chance that they were the masterminds behind the gruesome murder of the controversial cabinet ministers.
I laughed my lungs out when I watched Kondwani Nankhumwa insinuating, ‘Apa chipani sitinachitenge?’ I just knew that the coup d’état had dismally failed.
Ninth, plan all the way to the way to the end
Organising a coup d’état of a mighty political party DPP requires a good planning strategy.
Relying on the sympathy from the courts is not enough for courts don’t take sides because they are independent arbitrators.
It was therefore important to include possible contingency plans and what-if scenarios in the coup d’état strategy.
Tenth, strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter
The moment Kondwani Nankhumwa as the leader of the disgruntled DPP camp has been expelled from the party, his followers are likely to scatter.
In fact, this is the time when people will know his own intentions of causing havoc in the party. Will Kondwani form a new political party or he will join his political masters?
In conclusion, we pat on the back our own courts for eventually bringing sanity in the opposition party, DPP, because previous court injunctions were just temporary reliefs which were prolonging squabbles in the party.
We also concur with the bold step the DPP Disciplinary Committee took by recommending the suspension and expulsion of the culprits from the party. This will act as a deterrent to potential offenders that undermining the party leadership tantamounts to mocking the whole party.
It is not true that the DPP party will disintegrate after the expulsion of the culprits. In fact, it is a good strategy to build and transform the party. May peace and tranquility prevail thereafter.
It is important to appreciate that such disciplinary actions are normal in any political organisation. For instance, Malawians are aware that the erstwhile opposition party, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) fired Dr. Jessie Kabwira and Prominent lawyer Gustavo Kaliwo before ascending to power.
To the expelled persons, all is not lost. They have a myriad of options to pursue.
They can seek legal relief though it is highly likely that they may lose the case with costs. They can organise themselves and form a new party and later align themselves with any electoral alliance. They can also join any political party of their choice. Or they can quit active politics and concentrate on private businesses. Indeed for them, the sky is the limit.