Three governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members summoned to Sanjika Palace in Blantyre on Tuesday boldly refused to endorse President Peter Mutharika as the party’s torchbearer in the 2019 Tripartite Elections.
Sources privy to the meeting confided in Nation Online on Wednesday that Mulanje West member of Parliament (MP) Patricia Kaliati who is also DPP national director of women, Blantyre City East MP Noel Masangwi and national director of youth Louis Ngalande met Lhomwe Paramount Chief Ngolongoliwa and Mulhako wa Alhomwe chairperson and entrepreneur Leston Mulli at the presidential palace.
One source told Nation Online that Mulli—who chaired the meeting—and Ngolongoliwa pleaded with the trio to make a public statement indicating their support for Mutharika, but the trio refused.
Said the source: “They [the three] said no to that plea. They argued that if it was genuine and sincere dialogue it should have been the President calling the meeting.
“They also said they were for the Vice-President Saulos Chilima to take up the party’s leadership through an open and transparent process, the convention. They said they were not changing their position.”
The information was corroborated by one of the attendees who said the presidential emissaries wanted the trio to change their position and block the whole debate about Mutharika or Chilima leading the governing party in the 2019 Tripartite Elections.
Said the attendee: “We told them we are doing all this for the good of the party. We love the party more than others would claim. We don’t want to find ourselves in opposition again after the May 2019 polls.
“Our point is that our President is aging. He has done his part to develop this nation and we want to see him go into his retirement a happy man. We have said it before. The party cannot win with him in the forthcoming elections. Chilima is the better option and with our support, we can carry the day.”
Mutharika, 79, is facing an unprecedented resistance for an incumbent—eligible for a second term as per the Malawi Constitution—from some DPP members canvassing for the candidacy of Chilima, 45. In the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections, Mutharika picked Chilima as his running mate from the private sector where he served as Airtel Malawi managing director.
Former first lady Callista Mutharika—widow of DPP founding president and the incumbent President’s elder brother, Bingu wa Mutharika—sparked the succession debate weeks ago when she said her in-law should pave the way for the comparatively youthful and energetic Chilima widely seen as a hands-on and results-oriented leader after he vibrantly led the Public Sector Reforms Programme that has lost steam since it was moved from his domain.
Mutharika has declared he will lead DPP in the elections while Chilima has remained silent on calls for him to vie for the presidency.
On Wednesday, Kaliati could neither deny nor confirm attending the Sanjika Palace meeting.
In a relaxed tone, she told Nation Online: “I will come back to you, but not today [Wednesday]. We are working on something.”
Masangwi said developments unfolding in DPP were internal whereas Mulli said he had no idea about the said meeting.
But Nation Online sources said the meeting took place between 9am and 1pm.
Ngalande, Mulanje South legislator Bon Kalindo and Blantyre City South MP Allan Ngumuya are among DPP functionaries who have openly spoken in support of Chilima’s candidacy.
Masangwi, on the other hand, is on record as having echoed Ngalande’s sentiments that DPP should call for a national governing council (NGC) meeting to map the way forward. It has transpired the party has not held an NGC meeting since 2013, raising questions on how and who has been making critical governance decisions.
During the opening of the Budget Meeting of Parliament in Lilongwe on May 4, DPP youth cadets attempted to block Kaliati from making it into the National Assembly where Mutharika delivered the State of the Nation Address (Sona). The disturbed delivery of the President’s speech and attacked perceived Chilima campaigners, including Kaliati and Masangwi.
On the night of May 4, Kalindo had one of his vehicles petrol-bombed by unknown assiatlants at his house in Blantyre while he was at Parliament in Lilongwe.
The Vice-President was the first to condemn the violence perpetrated by the DPP youth, describing it as barbaric.
Parliament has since instituted a probe into the unprecedented incident in living memory where delivery of the Sona was disrupted by “strangers in the House”.