Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) president Peter Mutharika maintained that he will lead the party until 2023 despite its functional review committee finding that party members have lost confidence in the current leadership.
Speaking during his 81st birthday celebrations in Mangochi on Sunday, the former president said he will step aside after 2023 and clarified that this does not mean clinging on to power.
He said: “I will be president of the DPP until 2023; that’s when I will cease to be the party president. Some say I am clinging on to power, but that’s not true.
“I have been president of the DPP for nine years and let me tell you, running a party is serious as compared to running a country.”
In its findings last month, the committee reported that DPP supporters said they had lost trust and confidence in the party’s leadership and cast doubt on whether the central committee led by Mutharika himself is working in the interest of the party.
Reads the findings in part: “Members do not feel obliged to be guided by the directives of the party.”
In the report, the committee, which was chaired by DPP vice-president (Eastern Region) Bright Msaka, warned that if the party remains in its current form, it may lead to its slow death.
The committee also took a swipe at individuals creating camps within the party, pointing out that they are bringing confusion because of a conception that a leader they despise does not need to be respected.
In separate interviews yesterday, governance and political commentators said Mutharika’s sentiments mean that he has defied recommendations by the functional review committee.
In a written response, Political Science Association (PSA) secretary general Makhumbo Munthali said
by remaining at the helm, Mutharika may want to play a critical exclusive role in determining the future of the party in as far as leadership and possible alliance combinations are concerned. He said Mutharika could be taking that path upon considering that leaving the party at this stage is premature for him and his inner circle.
Said Munthali: “His [Mutharika] ultimate goal is to see the DPP back in power and he believes that he is the only one who can influence this.
“Apparently, he thinks he is still relevant. However, this is a gamble. It can work to the advantage of the party or even bring it down. Time will tell.”
In a separate interview, political analyst Humphrey Mvula said it is unfortunate that Mutharika has chosen to ignore the functional review committee and remain president until 2023 when an earlier convention would assist the party to rebrand and regroup for the next general election.
“I am amazed that Mutharika can choose to disregard recommendations of his own committee. He [Mutharika] should have released the party because it needs a lot of rebranding and rebuilding which cannot happen under his leadership,” he said.
Mvula also concurred with Munthali stressing that by clinging on to power, Mutharika is confirming everybody ’s worst fears that he would like to handpick his successor or influence such a decision.
On his part, Mzuzu University political analyst Chrispine Mphande said Mutharika’s continued stay at the helm of DPP is dangerous as it will lead to the party losing its grip on the ground.
Efforts to speak to DPP spokesperson Brown Mpinganjira proved futile as his phone went unanswered on numerous attempts.
The committee’s report, among others, also reviewed the party’s constitution and proposed that it should only have first and second vice-presidents to move away from the concept of regional vice-presidents.
Besides, the report also stated that DPP supporters that were interviewed in the process expressed dismay with tribalism, corruption and selfishness of leaders, adding that those in top leadership were prioritising their tribal allegiance more than nationalistic posture.
Cracks in the DPP came to light after its secretary general Greselder Jeffrey in August last year told The Nation that Mutharika, who lost the June 23 2020 court-sanctioned presidential election to President Lazarus Chakwera, had done his part and that the party needed a new person to lead it into the future, calling for an early convention.