Our reporter AYAMI MKWANDA catches up with United Democratic Front (UDF) secretary general Kandi Padambo as squabbles and demands are gaining for the party to pull out of its contentious alliance with the ruling Democratic Progressing Party (DPP).
What is your stance on some UDF supporters’ call for your party president Atupele Muluzi to quit the alliance with the ruling party?
We are aware of those views and demands. They are not much of a surprise. Democracy by nature results in the emergence of different views which it tolerates and encourages for amicable discussion within an agreed framework. That is the norm in UDF. We consider it healthy. But those who respect the tenets of democracy ultimately abide by the views of the majority. We have vigorously discussed our alliance with DPP and why it is necessary. We have proceeded by the views of the majority. Those who have questions and uphold the values of our party and still want to be its members seek answers through our established channels. They do not hold unsanctioned press conferences.
What do you mean?
Becoming a member of a political party in a democratic dispensation is voluntary. One is not forced. The accepted universal principle is to abide by the decision of the majority. If you cannot bring yourself to respect the majority’s view, then the honourable thing is to resign from the party. I am not saying that opposing views should not be tolerated. But the way we articulate those views should be within the structures and through the channels of the party. Any other action can only be an attempt to bring the party into disrepute.
Is this alliance beneficial to the party?
The Parliamentary working relationship is beneficial to the party and to the nation in our view.
How does it benefit UDF members?
From the outset, we explained that such a relationship would ensure that programmes of the ruling party which have a commonality with those espoused by UDF will have a safe passage through the National Assembly. They will become the law of the land. Secondly, unnecessary tensions resulting from opposing for the sake of opposing can be harmful to society at large and should be minimised if not completely avoided. Social or political stability is very important. The benefit of our alliance must be seen more from that perspective and less from that of material benefits flowing to UDF and its leadership or members.
Did the party consult its grassroot supporters?
UDF has structures in all villages comprising a branch to the National Executive Committee (NEC). These structures are linked for dissemination of information, particularly decisions reached
by higher level structures with duly delegated authority. I can confidently say that consultations were done with the grassroots through leaders of representative structures.
What did the supporters say then?
By far, the overwhelming majority endorsed the parliamentary working relationship. Democracy seeks majority opinion not unanimity.
With these squabbles rocking the party, do you see UDF mounting a serious challenge against DPP in 2019 Tripartite Elections?
You have put it well. A squabble, as I understand it, is a petty and noisy quarrel. I think, as a party, we should not attach much seriousness to our squabbling minority who make noise by rushing to the press. The majority of our members, those who wish the party well and would like to see it move forward, come to the secretariat with their questions about the alliance if they have any. It is this overwhelming majority that will enable the party to strongly participate in the 2019 Tripartite Elections. Not the disgruntled members. I must also say when we go into an election, we do not do so to challenge a particular party out of the many we have on the field. We go into any election to sell our agenda or public interest to the voting Malawians. That is why the party, at the behest of its president, stands for issue-based politics as opposed to name calling brand of politics.
If the party pulled out of the alliance today, what would it lose?
The party and, most likely even the country, would risk losing the benefits I stated earlier.
Some party officials are accusing Balaka North legislator Lucius Banda of harbouring presidential ambitions. Is the party afraid of him contesting against Atupele Muluzi at a convention?
The timing of our convention is stipulated by our constitution. Any eligible candidate can contest for any office, including the presidency of the party. At the last national conference, no one was barred. Three candidates, including a woman, contested for the office of president. The elections were conducted by an independent body and on secret ballot. Right honourable Atupele Muluzi emerged the winner. I do not see any basis for what you are alleging. Any bona fide member of the party can contest for any office including that of president.
Should Malawians bank their hope on UDF as a party that will serve their interests?
I think when Malawians support a particular political party they do so in the hope that it will, when entrusted with power, perform in the national interest. I do not think they expect a party to place primary focus on its own interests or interests of its leaders. Whatever benefits may accrue to the party or its leadership should be legitimate and only incidental to serving the public interest. That is also our long held view in the party and we have no reason to doubt that the majority of Malawians still subscribe to it.