Key governing Tonse Alliance partners have conceded that there is no legal remedy to stop leading associate Malawi Congress Party (MCP) straying from the agreement that unified them towards the presidential election victory in 2020.
UTM, People’s Party (PP) and Alliance for Democracy’s (Aford) concession in separate interviews comes amid complaints that MCP is drifting away from the agreements which led to nine parties forming the alliance to dislodge DPP.
MCP, however, feels the agreements are being respected; hence, there is no need for panic.
Though the pact which they signed remains a secret document nearly three years after it was signed, in the course of the campaign Vice- President Saulos Chilima is believed to have hinted on it in part.
For example, during a meeting at Njamba held jointly with President Lazarus Chakwera in May 2020, he said he would be the Minister of Finance and that the presidency would be rotational with him next in the line.
However, in his first Cabinet, Chakwera, who during the rally also hinted that his vice would head the finance portfolio appointed Chilima Minister of Economic Planning in his inaugural Cabinet and Felix Mlusu as Finance Minister.
After dissolving Cabinet this year, the President stripped Chilima of the economic planning role to the astonishment of some observers.
The Tonse Alliance leaders also agreed that they should be meeting once every two months to help shape the governance policies, but Chakwera has not convened any since June last year.
And the agreement of rotational presidency, if any, also seems to be under threat as, about two weeks ago, MCP second vice-president Harry Mkandawire said Chakwera will seek re-election in the 2025 elections.
The declaration has infuriated the partners who feel the Tonse Alliance presidential candidacy is supposed to emanate from a collective decision.
“What I can advise the Tonse Alliance partners is that no one should make a mistake of positioning itself as a common enemy,” observed PP administrative secretary Ben Chakhame.
Chakhame acknowledged however that the agreement that bound the Tonse Alliance associates together may not form the basis of a legal challenge in the court of law in case one partner violates it.
PP’s president Joyce Banda signed the Tonse Alliance Memorandum of Understanding witness for MCP while Aford president Enock Chihana was the witness of UTM in the deal.
UTM went into alliance with Umodzi Party, People’s Transformation Party, Aford and Mafunde while MCP has PP, Peoples Progressive Movement and Freedom Party.
Speaking on Thursday, UTM spokesperson Frank Mwenifumbo also said the pact is more of a gentleman’s agreement whose implementation relies on morality.
“This is a political agreement. So, if one party decides to ignore it or to break away, we cannot seek court’s intervention because, in the end, everyone has a right to associate or not. However, whoever violates it will be judged by the people because that agreement is a people’s pact,” he said.
On his part, Aford president Chihana said though they might not have a path to seek a legal solution, he expects all the partners to operate in line with stipulations of the agreement.
“The agreement is founded on trust and even the President is governing based on trust of Malawians. So, if one party strays it has betrayed the people,” he said.
But MCP spokesperson Maurice Munthali has said the party believes that the agreement was being respected.
“In the first place, the process towards the process was placed in the hands of the president of the party and the secretaries general. It wasn’t for the consumption of the general public.
“Unless you have the list of agreements, all we know is that Chakwera should be the torchbearer and that Chilima he said.should be running-mate and that we should synchronise our manifestos and choose priority areas and that is going on now. We feel that the government is running perfectly,”
On declarations that Chakwera will run in 2025 when the Tonse Alliance has not publicly made a stand on that, Munthali said that is the position of the party.
“In 2018 during our convention, we revised our constitution so that if Chakwera won he should be given a chance to seek re-election despite the fact that his two terms as president of the party would have expired. So, those pronouncements are from the party’s constitutional position,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Malawi Law Society (MLS) president Patrick Mpaka has said that Tonse Alliance partners would struggle to enforce the agreement if the issues in the pact are unconstitutional.
“I don’t know the terms of the agreement, but the point is that if you agree on anything which is contrary to the Constitution it is not enforceable.
Mpaka also said the other challenge that parties could face to implement the agreement would be if the contents of the pact are not in line with the parties’ constitutions.
“Political parties’ constitutions would be binding on the members of that particular party. It can’t be binding on a person who is not a member. For example, Chilima cannot be bound by MCP constitution likewise Chakwera cannot be bound by UTM constitution.
“What one would expect is that whatever they were agreeing they would have to be looking at their constitution and see whether this is doable under our constitution or not. What it can do is that if you agree on something which is contrary to your party’s constitution it means you are also courting controversy from the party.
“For example, if the MCP constitution says that Chakwera cannot contest in an election after 2025 and then the agreement between Chakwera and Chilima is that he will be president from 2025 to 2030 it raises a controversy in the MCP camp which can affect the agreement.