Recent developments in the governing Tonse Alliance have pointed to fragmentation, but UTM Party says there is good progress in talks with Malawi Congress Party (MCP) to strengthen the partnership.
In an interview yesterday, UTM spokesperson Frank Mwenifumbo said his party and MCP have since June held three meetings during which they also agreed to keep their alliance steadfast to deliver for Malawians.
The thawing MCP-UTM relationship follows tensions for months between the two major Tonse partners.
Unlike in the heydays of the nine-party political alliance that backed MCP president Lazarus Chakwera as presidential candidate with UTM Party president Saulos Chilima as running mate in the court-sanctioned Fresh Presidential Election on June 23 2020, MCP party colours and symbols have been dominating the decor every time the President travels.
Previously, the decorations included colours of all alliance partners.
In June, Chilima heightened speculation about the rift in the alliance when he publicly accused Chakwera of moving goalposts regarding their succession plan. MCP responded by stating there was no such agreement.
But Mwenifumbo said the two parties are steadily closing their differences.
“The negotiations are ongoing; some progress has been achieved within the three times we have met as two main partners [UTM Party and MCP]. There shall be a joint press conference in which members of the press shall be invited,” he said.
Mwenifumbo said finer details on the progress in the discussions will be made public at a joint press conference the parties will address at a date to be announced later.
News of the meetings of the two parties come amid perceptions of a sour relationship between Chakwera and Chilima.
The perceptions deepened in the aftermath of an Anti- Corruption Bureau (ACB) report commissioned by the President that implicated Vice-President Chilima in alleged corrupt practices with United Kingdom-based businessperson Zuneth Sattar who has multi-million dollar procurement contracts with Malawi Government ministries, departments and agencies.
At an emergency meeting in July this year, alliance partners, said they felt sidelined, especially given that the quarterly meetings the partners agreed to be having were inconsistent.
On the quarterly meetings agreement, MCP spokesperson the Re verend Ma u r i c e Munthali referred the matter to Tonse Alliance spokesperson Kamuzu Chibambo, People’s Transformation Party (Petra)
leader, who was yet to respond to our questionnaire.
But speaking as Petra president during a September 27 press conference in Blantyre, he said he was particularly frustrated by the manner in which the government is being run.
He raised a number of issues ranging from the current foreign exchange drought the general economic instability and the fight against corruption.
Re a c t i n g t o t h e developments, political analyst Ernest Thindwa said in an interview yesterday that the future of the alliance does not necessarily depend on what is happening currently among the alliance partners.
He said: “We need to recognise that the primary motive of any political party is to win an election and get into office. As such, what will hold the alliance is the desire to retain office by the two major partners.
“If either MCP or UTM feels capable of winning an election going it alone, the alliance between the two may be under threat, but if there is mutual recognition that it may be challenging to win an election going it solo, the alliance may survive during the 2025 presidential elections.”
Chakwera and Chilima first met to talk about the alliance on July 7 2022 when they resolved to put their differences aside in the spirit of good governance.
In 2020, UTM, MCP and seven other political partner s commi t ted to work together and signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to support Chakwera as the presidential candidate with Chilima as running mate.
But in the recent past, a growing number of senior MCP officials have endorsed Chakwera’s candidacy in the 2025 presidential elections.
They have also been resolute in lobbying for the party to go solo in the 2025 elections, contrary to what Chilima told a Tonse Alliance mega rally at Njamba Freedom Park in Blantyre, that they had agreed as alliance members that Chakwera would lead first (2020 to 2025) and then pass the baton to him beyond 2025.