Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) has been in an alliance with the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for four years. Of late, the UDF president Atupele Muluzi, who is also Minister of Health, has been conducting rallies in the country and saying he will contest in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections. Our reporter AYAMI MKWANDA caught up with UDF spokesperson Ken Ndanga to learn what is going on in their alliance and other issues. Excerpts:
What is the status of the UDF/DPP working relationship?
The working relationship started after the 2014 elections where the UDF leader was invited to join Cabinet with our members of Parliament (MPs) moving to sit on the government benches. We have made it very clear over the last four years that our relationship was parliamentary and there is ample evidence to show that it has worked without any problems. In the last meeting in November 2018, UDF MPs were still sitting on the government side as has been the case in the previous sessions. There have not been any changes at all. When people start speculating that the relationship has gone sour, we fail to understand.
Are you satisfied with the way the union has performed in the past four years?
We have tried to demonstrate leadership through the various portfolios that our president Atupele Muluzi was assigned to by President Professor Peter Mutharika.
We have demonstrated to the people of Malawi that it is possible to rise above petty partisan politics and serve the country for the betterment of our people. Of course, coming from a background where huge public resources were plundered, resource mobilisation to meet government plans has been one of the biggest challenges. We may not have met all the people’s expectations but, to an extent, we have brought back the confidence levels among stakeholders and that is a very key performance indicator for us. We need to continue that path to achieve better results. The leadership of Muluzi and his team believes in delivery for the benefit of all Malawians and not just a chosen few.
Of late Muluzi has been conducting rallies; is this not an effort too little too late?
Muluzi was not really quiet over the last three years. The party organised several activities where he had meetings with members of our party. What has changed now is that he is now addressing rallies every week. Perhaps, as a country, we are so used to the type of politics where we campaign throughout. In politics, you need time to reflect and plan soberly and not being on the campaign trail throughout. When a leader does that he or she loses focus. UDF has now reset the button to mark a new beginning after a critical analysis of the challenges the country is facing. It is exciting to hear different political leaders lamenting about the country’s problems. The UDF leadership knows that Malawians know their problems and they do not need anybody to tell them about these obvious problems. What they are looking for is a leader who will articulate solutions. This is the biggest gap in our politics. The UDF leadership is coming to fill that gap.
What is your reaction to suggestions that the envisaged UDF/DPP partnership at the polls next year has fallen through following UDF giving conditions to DPP?
The UDF party has never given any conditions to any political party, let alone DPP. When we read these stories in the media we wonder who is behind them. We suspect that there are people with ill-motives who want to bring confusion among our supporters. If indeed the story is true, why is it that it always has anonymous sources? How credible are these sources if they are not confusionists who have their own personal agendas? They are using the concept of ‘fake’ news to derail us. As UDF, we will not be disturbed by these stories because we have our strategy and I can safely say that it is working perfectly well. We will continue to focus on our strategy and no amount of propaganda will derail us.
Currently, UDF is conducting primaries; are you going to field candidates in all 193 constituencies, including the strongholds of your partner, DPP?
Yes, the UDF started conducting its primaries in various constituencies throughout the country. There are 193 seats in the National Assembly. These seats are important in equal measure to us as a party. We are investing a lot in making sure that we retain seats already in our hands and get new ones as well. We can safely say that there are positive indications and that come 2019 our numbers in Parliament as well as in councils will tremendously increase. Our target is all the 193 seats in the National Assembly.
After the convention in August, UDF said it would hold conventions for the youth and women wings. How are the three parts being integrated into one party?
We have the interim committee for the wings in place and they are functioning well. We are yet to hold the conferences because we need to mobilise enough resources for these two activities. However, we are committed to ensure that leadership for these two wings is elected in a democratic manner like was the case with our national executive committee (NEC).
Should you go into the elections next year alone, what messages are giving to Malawians?
We have a plan which we will unveil. Malawians are looking for solutions and not lamentations. The UDF has a plan for economic growth and diversification to create jobs, plan to reorganise the agriculture sector, youth development and a comprehensive social protection programme. We are happy that already some of our plans which were tackled in the 2014 manifesto are being endorsed by others. We will not say that they have stolen our ideas but rather, we are happy that the Agenda for Change they despised now makes sense to them. History takes time to deliver its verdict. The Agenda for Change is manifestly delivering its verdict and we are proud of that as a party. n