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

Mr Gwanda Chakuamba (2003)

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

UDF, NRP coalition future in fresh doubt by ANTHONY KASUNDA

Uncertainty surrounds the future of the
relationship between the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the New
Republican Party (NRP) over what stakes NRP leader Gwanda Chakuamba has
in the alliance.
The development, according to sources from both UDF
and NRP, has raised tension between the two key players in the
alliance, a situation which has seen Chakuamba recently not being in
public together with his UDF counterpart Bakili Muluzi.
Chakuamba, while acknowledging that the two sides have not yet agreed
on his position in the alliance, attributed his public no-show to his
bail conditions. He was arrested recently over remarks he made at a
rally in Nkhotakota
“We have not yet discussed anything but there
are still some consultations going on,” Chakuamba said when asked what
agreement was made on his position in the alliance.
He dismissed the
assertions that he has been boycotting UDF functions because the UDF
has not been clear on his future position in the alliance, saying
recently he has not been able to attend such functions because of his
bail conditions.
“My bail condition number one and five only allows
me to move from home to the office and back and if I want to go outside
those areas then I have to seek police permission. My lawyer has made
an application to lift that,” he said.
Asked whether he expects the
UDF to make him running mate to Muluzi and what will happen if that
would turn out not to be the case Chakuamba just said: “I don’t know
but there are some consultations still going on.”
However, the bail
conditions sourced from the Nkhotakota Magistrate Court, which granted
Chakuamba the bail, do not say NRP is barred from holding or addressing
any rally.
The first and second condition mentions K50,000 bail bond
not cash for the accused and K20,000 bail bond not cash for two
sureties while condition number three requires him to surrender his
passport and all travel documents to police.
The last two conditions
require him to be reporting to police twice a week on Fridays and
Tuesdays and that he should not leave his office or home without the
authority of police.
The NRP leader has not been present in all the
four public functions where Muluzi was present since his return from
the UK a month ago.
Chakuamba did not welcome Muluzi on his arrival
from the UK, did not attend late Mary Kaphwereza Banda’s burial which
the UDF chairman attended in Lilongwe and was also absent at Muluzi’s
two rallies in Zomba and Nyambadwe in Blantyre. His deputy Ken Zikhale
Ng’oma attended all but the last event.
UDF alliance spokesperson
Humphrey Mvula, while acknowledging that the position of Chakuamba was
not yet clear, also said the NRP leader’s recent actions have nothing
to do with Chakuamba being discontent with some aspects of the alliance.
what I hear [from his lawyers] it is all to do with his bail
conditions. I hear that he is supposed not to hold any political rally
as part of the bail condition. With that I would personally not
encourage him to attend political rallies because at times politicians
can become overzealous during such gatherings,” he said.
Mvula said he has not seen the bail conditions himself and will only understand the situation after reading the conditions.
he said at the moment the issues to do with the alliance are being
looked at from two levels — an alliance working committee comprising
party officials and at leadership level involving all leaders of the
parties in the alliance.
“Some of those issues are handled at the
leadership forum and issues relating to leaders are information privy
only to the leadership of the parties. I would not know what is being
discussed,” he said.
Mvula, however, explained that all alliance
members are working based on a clear agreement which he said has some
of the elements derived from the agreement drawn when Chakuamba was
first drafted into government before President Bingu wa Mutharika broke
away from the UDF.
“As far as we are concerned there is no problem.
If Chakuamba wanted to stand on his own I don’t think he could have
wasted all his time advancing a UDF agenda and propagating Muluzi’s
come back,” he added.
UDF and NRP first had a clash over fielding of
parliamentary candidates after the UDF insisted that it will field some
candidates in the NRP stronghold of the Lower Shire especially where it
feels its candidates are strong.
Sources from both parties said
recently Chakuamba and his officials have been pressurising the UDF to
make its position clear on the position of their leader in the
alliance. Chakuamba is seen as the main key figure in the alliance
outside the UDF.
“The problem is that even Muluzi himself has never
confided in his colleague what position Chakuamba will have. That delay
is making us suspicious because at the end of the day if UDF decides to
do things to their own interest it will be too late for us as NRP,”
said one of the sources from the NRP.
The source said the NRP expects nothing less than a running mate for Chakuamba.
senior official in the UDF said Chakuamba’s absence during Muluzi
function was a sign of boycott and not the bail conditions as he was
putting it because he said before he started boycotting UDF activities
he raised the issue but the UDF told him that it was not yet time to
make any declaration since the party was still courting some more
players into the alliance.
“Our feeling as a party is that if we
make any declaration on our alliance partners it means we are shutting
the door for other potential partners who would want to join us because
then they will have nothing to bargain on,” said the source.

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