Former president Peter Mutharika has denied firing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) secretary general (SG) Grezelder Jeffrey, but told the party’s Central Committee on Thursday that her remarks proposing an early convention to replace him offended him.
During the closed-door meeting which lasted about five hours at his private beachside retirement home in Mangochi, Mutharika is quoted as having told the meeting that he did not want to face Jeffrey to avoid tempers flaring.
The meeting has since resolved to subject Jeffrey to a disciplinary hearing. Besides Jeffrey, some DPP members who reportedly wrote Mutharika asking him
Council (NGC) meeting within seven days will also face disciplinary action, according to our source who attended the meeting.to convene a National Governing
The source said Mutharika told the meeting that he had neither fired nor suspended Jeffrey. The former president also denied appointing DPP national organising secretary and Thyolo South West legislator Chimwemwe Chipungu as acting secretary general.
Said the source: “The President said he had not fired the SG, but did not want her to attend the Mangochi meeting. He told us that he felt offended by remarks that he has done his part and that the party needed to go for an early convention.
“So, it was agreed that the SG should be summoned to a hearing to understand what she meant. She is not alone, there are other members who also wrote the President asking that he convenes an NGC meeting within seven days, and those will also face disciplinary action.”
But the source said the issue of convention was not mentioned during the meeting, saying the convention would be held “at an appropriate time”.
Said the source: “It was learnt during the meeting that the person who communicated the message to the SG about her not [being allowed to] attend the Mangochi meeting may have delivered the message wrongly. The message was delivered to her as if she had been fired and, unfortunately, she further went on to challenge that she could only be removed through a convention.”
In a separate interview, DPP vice-president for the North Goodall Gondwe described the meeting as a success and confirmed the action against Jeffrey.
He said: “There will be a communiqué on the meeting, but well, the meeting went well. We came out stronger as a party. We solved the problems that we had and it went extremely well.
“At the meeting, we learnt that the SG was not expelled or suspended, but only told not to attend this meeting because of the remarks she made and it was a decision made by the president himself that she should not attend the meeting.”
Gondwe also confirmed the meeting’s resolution that Jeffrey should appear before a disciplinary hearing which in the party is chaired by Mulanje South West member of Parliament George Chaponda.
Besides Mutharika and Gondwe, other attendees of the meeting included treasurer general Jappie Mhango, vice-presidents Uladi Mussa (Centre), Kondwani Nankhumwa (South) and Bright Msaka (East). Chipungu was also in attendance alongside director of women and youth in the party. and administrative secretary Francis Mphepo.
Jeffrey did not pick her phone despite several attempts last evening, but on Tuesday she told The Nation that Mutharika had done his part and that the DPP needed a new person to lead it into the future.
Her sentiments came days after DPP regional governor (North) Christopher Mzomera Ngwira admitted that some sections of the party membership were calling for Mutharika’s replacement to start rebuilding the party after its loss.
Reacting to the resolutions, Mustapha Hussein, a political and administrative studies lecturer at Chancellor College—a constituent college of the University of Malawi, said Mutharika’s feeling that he was offended demonstrated signs of political intolerance. He said after losing the court-sanctioned June 23 Fresh Presidential Election, DPP needed to immediately put its house in order.
He said: “Mutharika is unable to tolerate criticism, dissenting views. In a democracy, people will not always agree with you, their thoughts may be contrary to what the leader wants or thinks and it is expected that the leader should be tolerant of different ideas and dissenting views and if anything, seek consensus.”
Hussein urged the DPP to call for an early convention, if it wanted to rebuild itself and compete in the next election, saying, Mutharika’s advanced age, meant he may not contest in future, and new people have to come in.
On his part, political analyst Ernest Thindwa, who also teaches at Chancellor College, argued that Jeffrey’s remarks were not offensive, and the decision to summon her to a disciplinary hearing is undemocratic and should not be condoned.
He said: “If DPP is to move forward, they need to allow alternative views, but as long as that is not allowed, the party is going nowhere. At first I thought Mutharika would be retiring, but it appears he is still committed to remain party president and still has ambitions to stand again in 2025 which will be a disaster for DPP.”
Since leaving office following his election loss, Mutharika has not made a public appearance, but has indicated through his Facebook page that he would not leave DPP alone.
In a July 23 2020 Facebook post, he pledged to continue fighting to the end, an indication he wants remain in charge for some time.
DPP lost the June 23 Fresh Presidential Election to Chakwera whopartnered Mutharika’s then estranged Vice-President Saulos Chilima of UTM Party on the presidential ticket. The winning pair amassed 58 percent of the vote.
DPP was founded in February 2005 by Bingu wa Mutharika after he unceremoniously ditched the United Democratic Front (UDF), the party that sponsored his presidential ticket in May 2004 after then president Bakili Muluzi handpicked him for the post.