Suspended Malawi Congress Party (MCP) publicity secretary Jessie Kabwila, who is also Salima North West Member of Parliament (MP) says MCP bloods runs in her veins. Kabwila, alongside five other alleged ‘rebels’—party vice-president Richard Msowoya, second deputy president Macdonald Lombola, secretary general Gustave Kaliwo, deputy secretary general James Kaunda and treasurer general Tony Kandiero—were recently suspended from the party. In this interview, Kabwila speaks to our reporter FATSANI GUNYA on the suspension and other developments in the party.
Although the High Court in Blantyre granted an injunction against MCP, restraining it from implementing the decisions it had taken on you, are you not afraid the party will replace you in your constituency?
I have the people’s support. The most refreshing thing I get is that they are still with me. This means that whatever I do or say truly represents their feelings and aspirations. I am in Parliament today because of MCP, and this I am always going to say it without any fear of contradiction. It is, therefore, vital for the people to understand that I am MCP through and through. I have never belonged to any other party and I will always be MCP!
Do your constituents know the alleged offences you committed in MCP?
Of course, the constituency teams feigned ignorance of my stipulated offences that led to my suspension from the party. But they share my innocence. On the other hand, when I say a party, I always talk about the structures; the areas, the veterans, the youth and the like. With such structures, we all agreed that we will never leave MCP. As a matter of fact, we will ensure MCP gets into government and that Democratic Progressive Party [DPP] is ousted from power.
How do you intend to achieve that when the party no longer needs your services because you do not support the leadership?
No. I do support the leadership in totality for it represents the party at the highest level. I even still use the Chakwera brand in my party slogans. Like I hinted earlier, I am an MCP person. I am not an independent Member of Parliament [MP]. For me, there is no MCP in me if I do not recognise the structures that support or form the party. When I point out some wrongs in the party, I am sure I am not saying I am fighting someone, no. MCP has survived all these years because it has always adhered to its constitution. It is because it has always operated through its institutions and not personalities.
So you recognise Lazarus Chakwera as your party president?
He is our leader and we constitutionally voted for Richard Msowoya as the vice-president and all those in respective positions across the party’s structures, including myself as it is indicated in the December 1 agreement which the president himself duly signed. The document affirms the fact that I am MCP. Therefore, I am here to uphold the constitution of the party because that is the articulation of the villagers out there. The constitution did not come from the elites; it actually emanated from the owners of the party which are the people we each have to serve in our various portfolios. So, don’t stone me for following the party the way the party says it is, and operates. This is the one thing I have always been doing even during that first time they said I was suspended from my role as publicity secretary.
Are these wrangles a sign that there is no intra-party democracy in MCP?
People must now understand that MCP, which came from a dictatorship and has a past of intolerance towards dissent, will be judged in the way it handles people like me; members who question and query on other wayward issues. For me, speaking the truth before power, and handling that is the way MCP can convince anyone that the party is ready to govern again. Not tolerating dissent was fine during the dictatorial era but today, it may easily mean blind loyalty to some extent; something which is not good for the party. I am an academician, I am an activist, and, therefore, I stand to know these issues better. Now in this case, if someone, says in my constituency, stands up to declare they would like to vie for my seat, I don’t think I should hate them and banish them in the bud. Nor does it mean they hate me, no. In a democracy like ours, all it means is that they want to try and help bring some new ideas for the advancement of either the party or the country. And in a democracy, a leader must nature that. It’s the same thing in MCP at the top level where for me, nobody should mistake where my loyalty lies: I fully appreciate that the current president of the party is Dr Lazarus Chakwera; constitutionally elected.
If you feel like that, why not dump the party and join another. We have 46 registered political parties in this country. Why are you clinging on to MCP?
Never. I will never join another party and I will never abandon MCP. At every rally that I have held or attended so far, I have been wearing my party cloth, I have my tambala wakuda flag and I also have the Kamuzu badge attached to my dress.
When you are in MCP, it is a birthright. My membership is something that the constitution of this party grants me a right to say where I do want to belong. I chose and still choose MCP. This is not because I anticipated I would not face challenges; especially not when I am standing on principle. It would be a mistake for anybody joining politics to expect people will be smiling at them when they are fighting for something right. Actually, I would kindly advise those of that mentality that they are in the wrong job. This is why I feel the fight to uphold the constitution of the party will never realise anything if we all wait for everyone to smile at us.
It should be something that you are sworn and committed to even amid deaths threats. With such convictions, one can even say they would be a very happy dead person, so long as they died standing on principles.
Therefore, my being MCP doesn’t have anything to do with somebody doing me a favour to be here; it’s my birthright. And if you ask me why I cling to the party, I would give a simple reason: This is the only party on the land whose ideology and principles will free this country. It is the only party that has proven and demonstrated a track record of improving this country.
Some section in the party claims that you were bought by the ruling DPP. What do you say to that?
I can never betray MCP. That is why those who are trying to finish me off [politically] are lying that I have been ‘bought’. But I cannot be bought and it is for one simple reason that the minute I do any DPP things, my MP’ship is gone. That’s why you have seen that I have even gone to Parliament for the Mid-Year Budget Review meeting to make sure that I am still an MCP member. If I was a person who’s driven by money, I tell you I would have been long gone by now.