The future looks good – Mutharika Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is yet to hold a convention to elect new office-bearers since the death of its leader Bingu wa Mutharika in April this year. The partyâ€™s interim leader Peter Mutharika speaks to George Mhango about the partyâ€™s future, Malawiâ€™s current political governance and economic developments.
Q: What is the future of DPP?
A: The future is generally good. As you know, we lost the president [Bingu wa Mutharika] suddenly seven months ago and obviously nobody was prepared for that. Now we are in the process of rebuilding from the sudden shock. I think we are going in the right direction.
We have had a few rallies which have been well patronised with large crowds. We are well organised in regions, districts, constituencies, area and zones. We have organised ourselves in such ways that we have to verify our membership across the board and that is working well. So, our membership is intact and the future looks good.
Q: What do you think of some DPP members who have left the party after the former president died, and in recent weeks?
A: I think what happened when the president died is that everyone panicked. People did not know what would happen, there was a new government and I cannot speak for them, but I have spoken to some of them and they are coming back. Most of those who left have spoken to me and are saying they are coming back. Of course, I have asked them as to why they left, but the answer is that they thought DPP was dead and wanted to go where power is.
When they come back, we donâ€™t ask many questions, but rather welcome them because this is like the story of the prodigal son in the Bible. I get calls daily and people want to come back. I think it will be very interesting on November 12 2012 when Parliament reopens. You will see how many people will be sitting on the DPP bench. I think you will be surprised with a sizeable number.
Q: The last days of the late president were characterised by what critics call poor governance and human rights abuses which led to loss of donor confidence and a bad economy. How much will it take to clear such misconceptions, now that you intend to run for the presidency once given the mandate at a DPP convention?
A: I am aware of that, but remember, even at present, there are problems of human rights, governance and devaluation. As you know, the late president sent me, honourable Goodall Gondwe, George Chaponda and Nicholas Dausi to persuade donors and we met Right Honourable William Dyke during our trip. We also met the British Foreign Affairs minister, we went to Brussels and then to Berlin on a mission to mend fences. I think we cleared up most of the soured relations.
In fact, I was Minister of Foreign Affairs for four months when the president died and all matters had been resolved. In terms of relationships with the British, they had assured us that they would appoint a new High Commissioner. I think with others like European Union, we had very good meetings just like our meetings in Berlin and so things were improving.
On human rights, things that we have been mentioning as DPP are still continuing now such as the dismissal of people without following the rule of law, people are being imprisoned without thorough charges and of course, some cases are probably unjustifiable.
Q: In your opinion, how has the PP government fared in the eight months it has been running the country?
A: Well, they have done well in the sense that, basically, they have decided to continue what we did in DPP. You know the subsidy programme and Green Belt Initiative are at the centrepiece of DPP. But the main area is the economy. I think they have failed to manage devaluation and the consequences of it.
I think we all know issues of the cost of living, the rise in prices of goods and services and they have to improve. In the area of security, we also have a lot of problems. This place [his residence in Nyambadwe] has been broken into three times by thugs. So, there is insecurity in the country, which I think the new government has not managed well and they may need to improve.
Forex is very difficult to find. Six or seven months after the devaluation, life is and will be very difficult, and it has nothing to do with the former DPP government.
Q: When is DPP having a convention?
A: Well, we will have the convention. I have stated before that within the next six months… We are planning a convention such that we are committed through continued discussions every week. But actual dates will be announced in due course. People should not worry. I also said this when I was appointed by the National Governing Council (NGC) of the DPP to lead the party. At that time, I made it clear that there will be a convention at which level all positions will be up for grabs within the next six months.
Q: Where does DPP get its funding from?
A: We, as DPP, get funding from donations and these are small donations. Some people give us bags of maize, for example. Imagine, the other day, I was travelling from Mulanje to Thyolo and I stopped somewhere and met this old lady in DPP attire and gave me K46 as a contribution to the partyâ€™s operations. She said she is a diehard supporter of DPP since 2005. I was moved and it was like the biblical story of a lady who gave all she had. You are also welcome to donate. We also organise fund-raising activities like the one we had at the College of Medicine Complex before our president died.
Q: Do you think the party would survive if you were out of the picture?
A: The party cannot depend on one person. The party is bigger than one person. You know, we lost our leader who was the founder of the party and other party leaders have also retired, but the party continues and has to move on. A party cannot disappear because one person is not there. Those who are there will continue leading the party.
Q: Are there chances that you will partner any party for the 2014 polls?
A: I really do not know. I know people talk about this and analyse that no single party can win, but I donâ€™t know because they said the same thing in 2009. Remember when UDF and MCP partnered, they said DPP could not win without a partner. We decided to go it alone and we had a landslide. So, I believe the kind of support we have, and itâ€™s massive support, we can win without partnering with anybody else.
Q: On a lighter note, there are talks about your purported intentions to marry a Benin woman. When is the wedding?
A: I have no links to the lady in question. Not only that, I have not been to Benin, it was just fabricated.