After retiring from active politics in October 2013, long-time politician and longest serving leader of opposition in Parliament John Tembo, sees a future in the country’s former ruling party, Malawi Congress Party. Tembo’s speaks more on this, elections and the new government to our reporter Rebecca Chimjeka.
Q. How has life been outside active politics?
As you know I retired from my position as president of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) at the convention of the party and I handed over my responsibility to the new president Dr Lazarus Chakwera. So, I have been quiet in my retirement, but not retired from MCP. Therefore, during the campaign, I assisted many members of Parliament, including the MCP president. But I observe what is happening not only in Malawi but in other countries as well. Once interested in politics, you are always active in thinking about issues.
Q. Do you regret quitting politics?
No, I don’t. As matter of fact, I am happy to rest from active politics, at least presidential politics.
Q. What is your take on the just-ended elections?
Well, first of all I am happy that there was no fighting among political parties. There were incidents here and there as reported in the media but generally, it was a peaceful election and the aftermath is still quiet and peaceful.
But not many people in MCP are entirely satisfied with the outcome of the election. There have been too many rumours about rigging. If indeed rigging took place, it mars the commitment of the Malawi Electoral Commission to ensure peaceful as well as credible elections as they always promise. What should happen in future is to ensure there is no rigging. You see, I say there should be no rigging because the final statement of MEC was not as I understand it signed by all commissioners. Some of the commissioners were not in agreement with some of the results.
Q. How do you rate MCP performance during the recent elections?
Well, MCP is the oldest political party in this country. It was stated by a very, very committed politician late Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda and he laid very, very, solid foundation. At the time he did this, the struggle for independence was evident in every country which was under colonial rule during that period and he was one of the founding members of the struggle of Malawians as well together with other political leaders in other countries. So, the foundation was solid, it is there now and it will continue to be there in the future. I think that MCP did better than the previous general elections. Therefore, I am hopeful that the improvement that was shown will continue not only on the performance of MCP but also in the performance of MEC.
Q. Recently, some senior MCP officials expressed concern on how the party is being run. Can this weaken the party?
The party cannot split, if what your are saying is true. But I do not believe that there are problems in MCP which can lead to the split of the party. Of course, after every election, every party has a chance to reflect on people running the party and so on. That is normal. The party has got a president Rev Dr Chakwera. All members of the party must look up to him. Those who are interested must meet with him, discuss issue with him, as president of the party and Dr Lazarus Chakwera must be made available to the people. There is no problem that has no solution.
Q. How should MCP conduct itself in Parliament?
First of all as Members of Parliament, they are supposed to follow the interest of their voters; their interest in Parliament must be national while accepting that they belong to a political party. This I believe is what they are doing in Parliament.
Q. What should MCP do to get back in government?
They have to go back to the drawing board and look at what could be the best approach come 2019. All is not lost. MCP remains one of the biggest parties and I can see there is still a bright future for the party.
Q. How do you rate President Peter Mutharika’s administration?
Lean Cabinet? That’s a good thing. I appreciate it very much. Recently, we have seen Cabinets being blown out of proportion. This is good.
But one of the problems that I see is where political parties, particularly the ruling party, start sidelining people by appointing to public positions only those that are close to the President. When I read newspapers nowadays, names of people that have been appointed to certain position; it’s obvious they are supporters to the ruling DPP. We must be careful not to sideline any section of country.
Let me tell you this, as a leader of MCP, Dr Banda did not sideline people from other regions because the population was smaller. In fact, more ministers came from the Northern Region; Chisiza, Chiume, Aleke Banda,Orton Chirwa came from there. This brought confidence to all the regions and that’s what this government should strive for.
Q. Do you think DPP will deliver according to campaign promises?
We are going to see what will happen, because no political party can manage to do everything that it promised during campaign period. But we have observed some commitment DPP had promised during campaign.
Q. What is your advice to Malawians as they celebrate 50 years of independence?
Well, first of all, the 50 years that has gone, Malawi has made progress, obvious progress. Malawi has not progressed as well in some other areas but I am proud of what Malawi has done for the past 50 years of independence. We can boast of freedom of expression; we can boast of development in education sector we have more than one university now. But something must be done in infrastructure. There is much more to be done in the coming years in terms of health education in as far as infrastructure is concerned. We need more school and health centres.