"It's shameful that the UDF party wants to take us back to the dark days,"

Mr Gwanda Chakuamba (2003)

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

UDF gurus unhappy with Muluzi
by Anthony Kasunda, 29 April 2007 - 06:43:33
Old habits die hard, goes the saying. This is exactly what the United Democratic Front (UDF) National Chairman Bakili Muluzi is allegedly doing by imposing unilateral decisions on the party.
The former president is accused of imposing himself as the party’s 2009 presidential candidate, entering into coalitions with other political parties and selling a manifesto at public meetings without the blessings of the party’s national executive committee (NEC).
Some senior national executive members fear that this trend will plunge the party into more chaos than was the case in 2003 when Muluzi imposed Bingu wa Mutharika as presidential candidate, a development which led to several top officials leaving the party in protest.
While the UDF gurus may also be unhappy with those entering into coalitions with Muluzi without their consent, one of the involved people, Malawi Democratic Party (MDP) president Kamlepo Kalua says the disgruntled members should take up the issues with Muluzi himself because he is the one who approached them.
He said the alliance issue has been discussed at the presidential level and that it might come at national executive level at a later time when the parties involved are about to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU).
“If the UDF executive members have issues, they have to query their chairman because it is him who approached us and we agreed to work together,” said Kalua.
Chakuamba in an interview on Wednesday declined to comment on “the agreement” between his party and the UDF or Muluzi.
When it was put to him that some UDF executive members have resentments because the matter was never discussed at any of their NEC meetings, Chakuamba said: “That’s their internal matter.”
Muluzi has been holding political meetings in various parts of the Southern Region where he has paraded New Republican Party leader Gwanda Chakuamba, Kalua and Malawi Democratic Union’s Amunandife Mkumba as political allies in the 2009 general elections.
“Honestly speaking, we have never met as NEC since November and I don’t know where issues of a UDF candidate or forming alliances with other parties were discussed,” said a senior NEC member.
“Muluzi is using the tactic he used to bring Mutharika into the party. He is going through regional governors to promote his wish to be the presidential candidate,” he said, adding that the chairman had exposed himself to ridicule and insults from government machinery by declaring his interest to bounce back without waiting for the convention to decide.
The source said as it was the case in 2003, Muluzi has chosen to sideline the UDF gurus and align with strangers to the party as evidenced during the political rallies where his allies are given priority at the expense of genuine UDF officials.
“The time Muluzi was abroad for medical treatment, we worked very hard to rebuild the party he destroyed when he brought in Mutharika. He returned and started running party affairs using a kitchen NEC,” he charged.
Another senior NEC member said Muluzi faces defeat more than victory because the Mutharika experience has taught people a lesson and the grassroots cannot be taken for granted.
“The danger that the party is dying and disappearing if Muluzi continues to impose decisions on people is real. There are very serious signals that not all is well in the party.”
However, another executive member said the issue of alliances was once discussed at a NEC meeting and that Muluzi was mandated to work on modalities of the partnership.
“Maybe Chakuamba and others come to the rallies as guests of the chairman because NEC has not been told the outcome of their agreement,” he observed.
But UDF secretary-general Kennedy Makwangwala admitted on Thursday that the national executive has never discussed the issues. However, he was quick to point out that whatever was happening now was being driven by the desire of party followers.
“It is the people who want the chair to stand. So, NEC will meet to endorse what people want before the issue is taken to the convention. Those people with grievances will be free to air their views,” he said.
Makwangwala admitted that the last NEC meeting was held in November and said such meetings are not held frequently because they are expensive.
UDF director of economic affairs Friday Jumbe and co-opted member Brown Mpinganjira who initially showed interest to vie for presidency have since declared their support for Muluzi.
Other aspirants like Vice-President Cassim Chilumpha, UDF spokesman Sam Mpasu and leader of UDF in Parliament George Nga Mtafu have not publicly withdrawn their presidential ambitions.
Mpasu in an interview said nobody aspiring to be the party’s presidential candidate in 2009 has been barred from contesting at the forthcoming convention.
“The UDF is a democratic party and delegates to the convention will rightly expect to exercise their right to elect a person of their choice as presidential candidate,” said Mpasu.
But asked if the decision to field Muluzi was discussed by NEC, Mpasu said: “To the best of my recollection, NEC is yet to discuss these issues as a unit although some members of NEC have been involved.”
On the alliances he said: “There is no official agreement in writing that I know of. However, there has been an explicit desire that people of the Southern Region should not be given too many presidential candidates as that will split their votes.”
He said it was on that understanding that Chakuamba, Kalua and Mkumba have indicated that they will not stand if Muluzi will be the candidate.

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