Delegates to the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) convention have amended the party’s constitution and introduced disciplinary measures against critics.
The amendment has also laid down procedures to fight corruption and introduced a four-tier system for the national governing council (NGC).
Briefing the delegates, chairperson of the constitution amendment committee Bright Msaka, a lawyer by profession and Minister of Education, Science and Technology, said the amended constitution will introduce disciplinary measures against those that are insubordinate to the party and will also guide the party in promoting patriotism, hard work and integrity.
He said: “We have introduced a code of conduct in the party constitution. This will guide on how to remove people who insult the president and the party. We have also documented all the positions in the party and establishment of disciplinary committee.
“The constitution also authorises the party to establish adhoc disciplinary committees in regions, areas and branches.”
The constitution amendment committee comprised Msaka, Minister of Justice and Constitution Affairs Samuel Tembenu, Attorney General Charles Mhango and NGC member Francis Mphepo.
After a brief outline of the amendments, the visibly uninformed delegates rubber-stamped adoption of the constitutional amendments.
In an interview later, Mhango explained that the party identified loopholes in its 2008 constitution and moved to address them.
He said some of the identified loopholes included lack of disciplinary measures, lack of guidelines in the appointment of people to positions that were not established and the lack of principles that deal with fighting corruption and party financing. The constitutional amendment has also introduced gender balance in elected positions.
Mhango said: “The new constitution is in line with the governance trends in Malawi and in the southern Africa region. We have introduced governing principles that would make fighting corruption as a guiding principle of the party and provision of gender balance whether possible we intend to achieve 60/40.”
He said the party was keen to fight corruption, theft and stealing by only accepting members that are “of good standing”, adding that the party will also be open to audit from reputable audit firms to establish party financing, sourcing and usage.
On how the party will balance its fight against corruption when it is tainted with corruption allegations, Mhango said DPP has never been involved in any corruption.
He said the recent scandal that involved a DPP account where Mutharika is the sole signatory receiving K145 million from a supplier was yet to be authenticated by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).
“I do not want to comment directly because it is a matter with ACB. ACB has not authoritatively owned the report and nothing in the report shows in terms of participation of the party,” he said.
But presidential press secretary and spokesperson Mgeme Kalilani confirmed to our sister newspaper, Nation on Sunday, that Mutharika was the signatory and that he undertook the task to ensure accountability of funds for the DPP headquarters building project.
Other major changes as explained by Mhango were that establishment of some of the positions in the party, including the introduction of a four tier leadership style where all positions will be a regional presentation.
“All positions will have four office holders one from each region. This is to say if the secretary general will come from the Central Region, the three deputies, each will come from one of the regions. This does not apply to the president as each region will have its own president and then a national president of the party. We have overhauled the whole party structure,” he said.
The constitutional review has also tackled on membership as all members will now be asked to join the party in their areas and work their way up to the NGC.
Mhango said the disciplinary committee that will be set at the end of the convention will, among others, target insubordination in the party and those championing other ideologies.
He, however, said the new constitution will not apply to the people in Chilima Movement, a grouping of former DPP NGC members and some legislators canvassing for the presidential bid of Vice-President Saulos Chilima who indicated he was quitting the party. Mhango said the law cannot apply retrospectively.
The Chilima Movement members openly criticised Mutharika’s leadership style, faulting the party for not holding NGC meetings since 2013.