President Lazarus Chakwera has, for at least three times, failed to meet eight of the Tonse Alliance partners since the last meeting they held in June 2021.
One alliance Partner told The Daily Times that at the last meeting, which was held at Chikoko Bay in Mangochi District, the partners agreed to be meeting twice every two months.
In an interview on Monday, Kamuzu Chibambo, who is secretary for the alliance, said they were expected to meet on Monday this week but that, too, did not materialise.
Chibambo, who is People’s Transformation Party (Petra) president, was hopeful that a new date would be set.
“We are still waiting; we have not yet been advised on when we will meet. Of course, a lot has been happening in the country and it is important that, when issues arise, we should be able to come in quickly and talk about them. That is the more prudent way than fire fighting because we lose a lot when we wait for things to occur,” he said.
Commenting on the same, Enoch Chihana of Alliance for Democracy (Aford) said it was an open secret that the country was facing myriad challenges that needed urgent attention.
Chihana singled out high unemployment levels, the high cost of living and the Covid pandemic, which he claimed to have resulted in reduced production levels in the country.
Chihana added that although it was the prerogative of the President to come up with members of the Cabinet, a reshuffle was long overdue.
“We were supposed to meet today (Monday) but the President is in the Southern Region and is engaged. We are hoping that we will meet soon because all of us can appreciate that we are facing a lot of challenges which need urgent attention and fixing,” he said.
His counterpart, Freedom Party president Khumbo Kachali, said the meeting offers a platform for checks and balances to the government so that it can act according to the script.
“It has taken time because the last time we met was in June. We are hoping that we will meet anytime soon. Of course, we have seen that the President is engaged in a lot of activities but the agreement was that we should be meeting every two months… that is the only place where, as presidents [of parties in the alliance], we can air out our views, get explanations on some things and map the way forward,” he said.
However, UTM secretary general Patricia Kaliati could not comment on the development, only saying: “It is only the State President who is chairperson of the meeting; we cannot underrate him”.
Kaliati was quick to add that she was not there when the decision on the frequency of alliance partners’ meetings was made.
When asked to explain the President’s unavailability, Presidential Press Secretary Anthony Kasunda referred us to Malawi Congress Party (MCP) publicity secretary Maurice Munthali.
However, Munthali said MCP did not have the mandate to comment on Tonse Alliance issues.
This is despite that the Tonse Alliance’s torch-bearer in the June 23 2020 presidential election was MCP president Chakwera, who emerged the eventual winner in the national poll.
Tonse Alliance partners have also indicated that Chakwera is the one who convenes meetings.
“He has to do that as State President whose government comprises nine parties. He doesn’t need to derive such a mandate from the party,” he said.
Commenting on the development, social and political analyst Wonderful Mkhutche said the implication of the absence of the meetings was grave.
“The history of the Tonse Alliance came about because of the 50+1 electoral system. It would even be difficult for them to win in the next election if the alliance breaks. Even at the national level, if the alliance partners are not on good terms, it could affect national governance and stability of the alliance,” he said.
The Tonse Alliance-led administration has now been in office for about 18 months following the historic June 23 2020 court-sanctioned presidential election.
The alliance, which was unveiled on March 19 2020, has UTM, People’s Party, Aford, Petra, Freedom Party, Mafunde, MCP, Umodzi Party and People’s Progressive Movement.