DPP indaba on rocks
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is falling apart due to infighting for its leadership. The wrangles have since triggered rising calls for the party to go to a convention – in July this year – hoping that this would heal the divides that are tearing the party down. But is it a given that the party could hold a convention in July, let alone this year?
By Deogratias Mmana
As Malawians watch the falling apart of the things in the former governing Democratic Progressive Party, there have been rallying calls from within and outside for the party to hold its national conference.
Holding the convention, some say, is the surest way for the party to repair the divisions that have rocked it and make it count ahead of the general elections in 2025.
But having the convention in July this year may not be a given, if the suggestion by the party’s vice president for the central region, Zeria Chakale, and certain provisions in party’s constitution are anything to go by.
According to Chakale, holding the convention this year, two years before the country’s general elections in 2025, will be against the party’s constitution.
She says the constitution says the party would hold a convention a year before the general elections.
“The party has not yet discussed this but it is something worth considering.
“The convention may fail because the constitution says the convention should be held one year before the general elections but now there are two years [before 2025],” Chakale said.
She gave the hint during her meeting with the party’s district governors in Lilongwe last week.
She also said exposing the party’s candidate two years before the elections would be taking a risk lest the candidate becomes a target of the rivals.
But the party’s constitution of 2018 is not clear as to specific date the party can hold what it calls a National Political Conference.
Article 8 of the constitution highlights the conference as the central organ in the business of the party.
It highlights who is supposed to attend the conference.
It also highlights its powers and responsibilities.
Section 4 of the article reads: “The party shall hold one mid-term meeting of the National Political Conference as the Central Committee may determine.”
It further says the Central Committee shall call for meetings of the National Political Conference and that the Central Committee shall determine the agenda of the business for the National Political Conference.
The party last held its convention in July 2018, ahead of the tripartite elections in May 2019.
The party’s leader, Peter Mutharika won the presidential election, which was later nullified by court leading to a fresh presidential election in June 2020 won by President Lazarus Chakwera.
Ahead of the election in May 2014, the party held its national conference in April 2013, a year before the general elections.
However, Article 10 of the constitution stipulates that members of the National Governing Council shall be in the position for a period of five years “and shall continue to hold office until the election of new office bearers, notwithstanding the expiry of their term of office”.
Chakale’s suggestion on the convention date comes as divisions in the party have worsened over the endorsement of Mutharika to contest at the party’s convention as presidential candidate.
Chakale and her regional governors are among those that have endorsed Mutharika to contest.
However, the party’s national publicity secretary Nicholas Dausi, who is also legislator for Mwanza Central constituency, recently told the press that the party had no choice but to call for a convention.
According to him, beyond July 2, 2023, the positions in the party’s National Governing Council will be have expired.
Another member of the party and Chairperson for the Parliamentary Committee on Public Appointments Joyce Chitsulo said: “We want our leader and the National Governing Council to sit down and devise plans and follow all dictates of the constitution.”
DPP spokesperson Shadreck Namalomba described Chakale’s sentiments as personal views and that she was entitled to such.
Namalomba said it is the party’s NGC that is mandated to set the date for the convention.
“We are waiting for the NGC to set the date for the convention. And there will be no vacancy or vacuum if the date is set beyond July according to the constitution,” Namalomba said.
But governance analyst Clemence Alfazema has urged the DPP to conduct its business within its legal provisions and avoid pushing any agenda through the back door.
Alfazema said backdoor manoeuvring has killed many parties in the country in many ways.
“If the constitution says positions will expire after July, the officers will have to seek fresh mandate from the people,” Alfazema said.
However, he said if it is by popular voice that it is too early to unveil a candidate, then the party should see how best to accommodate such views.
Those known to be aspiring to take over the party’s leadership from Mutharika include Bright Msaka, Kondwani Nankhumwa and Dalitso Kabambe.