Former governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is picking up the pieces from its loss in the court-ordered June 23 Fresh Presidential Election and is currently planning a new era without its president Peter Mutharika.
In an interview yesterday, DPP secretary general Grezelder Jeffrey said the party was working on several options to move forward, including an early convention to reconstitute its leadership.
She said Mutharika—who led the party back into government in May 2014 after two years in opposition after the death of its founding president Bingu wa Mutharika—has done his part; hence, DPP needs a new person to lead it into the future.
Said Jeffrey: “Whether we like it or not, a convention is important and we will hold it as a party. But we will not do it today or tomorrow. When the time comes, we will let you know.
“The party now needs to meet and discuss the matter. Professor Mutharika has done his part and he will not contest again in future. He is retiring and we need to choose a new leader.
“I am the secretary general, the one responsible for organising the party convention, so trust what I am telling you. The party will be meeting to discuss. People should not rush. The party will hold a convention and will choose a leader. We are looking into it.”
She said DPP would announce in a fortnight the direction it wanted to take, including the possibility of an early convention.
Said Jeffrey: “When the time comes, in two or three weeks, I will call for a press briefing and will tell the public the direction that the party is taking.”
Her sentiments come days after DPP regional governor for the North Christopher Mzomera Ngwira admitted that some sections of the party were calling for Mutharika’s replacement to start rebuilding the party after its loss.
He said: “There are other people within the party that want us to find an interim leader to replace Professor Mutharika. We gave Mutharika the mantle to lead the country up to 2024 and today we say the same person cannot lead the party?
“What such calls mean retire and pave way for new leadership.”
On his part, Political Science Association president Joseph Chunga said DPP should borrow a leaf from Malawi Congress Party (MCP) by opening up the contest to new blood.
He said: “It’s not a question of someone being appropriate or not, but we need to look at whether such a person can take the party forward in a long term. If they know already that Mutharika will be done by the time the convention will be held, maybe in four years time, why would you want to keep that leader who after four years will not be there to lead the party?
“Instead of handing over the power to somebody who can handle the leadership, shaping it and giving yourself a realistic chance of contesting in the next election?”
DPP lost in the June 23 2020 Fresh Presidential Election to the nine-party Tonse Alliance led by MCP president Lazarus Chakwera who partnered Mutharika’s then estranged Vice-President Saulos Chilima of UTM Party on the presidential ticket.
But posting on his Facebook page on July 23, Mutharika said he will not leave the party and pledged to continue fighting to the end.
Wrote the former president: “Come next election, DPP will be bouncing back into government and I will render all my support to make sure this is achieved as we did between 2012 and 2014.
“Malawians have already seen that their much-touted change has not brought them the change they were looking for. I, therefore, call upon all DPP supporters to remain strong and vigilant, united and principled so that we achieve this together.”
Peter Mutharika took over the leadership of DPP after the death of his brother, Bingu wa Mutharika in April 2012, propelling the party to victory in the 2014 Tripartite Elections.