I have left MCP, not my people—Kabwila

The embattled Salima North west Parliamentarian Jessie Kabwila recently abandoned the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and joined the newly-formed UTM Party. Our reporter Andrew Nyondo got hold of her on the issue. Excerpts:

Kabwila: They forced me out

Q

You have quit the MCP soon after losing in the primaries. Would it be wrong to conclude that this is an action of someone who has failed to get what they wanted?

A

To begin with, I did not lose primaries. How do you lose in something you did not participate in? Those were not primaries but an ambush. It is well-documented. Twice they attempted to set this up but they failed because I was just too strong for them on the ground. My competitor could not beat me in a free and fair election and that is why they used short cuts against the normal MCP procedures to simply endorse him in the end.

Q

2018 seemed to be so hectic to you in your political career. Is that a correct observation?

A

I rather see 2018 as the year of my resolutions. I was once again tested, I endured a torrid time yes, but as usual I stood firm to my principles in my fight against injustice and constitutionalism.

Q

You tried to stay in MCP when your colleagues, who you were together with were suspended or left the party. Why did you want to stay in the party until you lost primaries?

A

My disagreements with the party were issue based not against particular individuals. They were about the fundamental principles that guide the party, which were being violated left, right and centre. An organisation like MCP has a constitution which has to be respected to the letter. This was the bone of contention. If you saw me staying put, it was because I believed that one day the leadership would be democratic enough to respect that.

Q

You have to fight from within. One of the initiatives that are currently being promoted in the country is the 50:50 Campaign, to ensure that there is total representation of women in critical decision-making positions. Do you see Malawi attaining this initiative given the current political landscape in political parties?

A

50:50 Campaign is a battle we all must participate in. As Chairperson for both Women’s Caucus in Parliament and the entire SADC region, this is a concept I have embraced with the last drop of my blood. A lot of leaders in our political parties have indeed claimed to be champions for the 50:50 campaign and are signatories to different charters. However, there has been little action taken to sustain that claim.

Q

Out of many parties, you decided to settle for the UTM Party. What gives you confidence this can be a better party worth joining?

A

UTM’s agenda for women and the youth suits my aspirations very well. The party’s inclusive policies mean that I can contribute meaningfully to the creation of a better Malawi which we all crave for. In addition, the mandate and vision of UTM are well-aligned to the Malawi Development Goal Strategy [MGDS] and the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs]. So, when my constituents ordered me to join UTM, other than being independent after those botched up primaries, I did not hesitate but follow what they said.

Q

Last time you ‘rebelled’ against the party, you claimed you had the backing of your constituents. This was after you were suspended. Would you say the same now that you have opted to ditch the party altogether?

A

I have left MCP but I have not left my constituents who are in fact the ones who directed me to join UTM. I retain their loyalty 100 percent.

Q

You vowed when you spoke to us in February 2018 exclusive interview to ensure that MCP wins the forthcoming polls and party leader Lazarus Chakwera becomes state president. Why the sudden change of heart?

A

I give my full support and loyalty to the party I am in. Politicians must realise that they are servants of the people not the other way round and this is exactly what I was doing when I was in MCP. For your information, I did not just quit MCP, but was rather forced out not by the people who put me in my position, but by a few greedy top officials of the party under the blessings of the party President Lazarus Chakwela.

Q

Quoting your own words, you categorically said that there was no way you could have a political future with you outside the MCP as per your constituency. How then do you explain the departure from the very party you said you could not do without?

A

Whenever I said I could not pursue a political future outside MCP, I meant voluntarily quitting the party, without due regard to my constituents. This is not the case now. If you go to my constituency Salima North West, right now, you will notice how angry people are with what the party did to me.

Q

Would we say that your controversial attitude either in politics or academic career emanate from you being ‘marketable’ or sheer incompetence? Why would you keep jumping ship anyway?

A

I am not controversial. I just say it as it is. Unfortunately, a lot of us are gripped with unknown fear of not wanting to criticise when things go wrong.

I led the academic freedom fight with others purely on principles and in the end the battle was won. I never jumped ship, I had attractive offers to abandon the fight but pursuing unprecedented transformative politics. Everyone is free to contribute meaningfully without any fear and favour.

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