On party succession, other matters


As disagreements within the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) were going on, a representative of a media telephoned to seek my view. I told him I did not feel any urge to comment on what was essentially an internal party matter.

One of the MCP members said something which I thought was a good hint not only for the MCP leadership but for all political parties that are active. This was to the effect that since MCP is a national party, anyone could be elected its president from Nsanje to Chitipa and that it should not be treated as regional or tribal party.

I clapped my hands when I heard this because it accorded with what I have often thought and sometimes said. If people of Malawi want to promote national unity, they must make sure that the spirit of non-discrimination which prevailed in the Nyasaland African Congress (NAC) predecessor of the MCP prevails. NAC was founded by James Frederick Sangala of Zomba in 1943. But when members gathered to elect its president in 1944, they elected Levi Mumba who was from Mzimba and who was the most influential politician among the Nyasas those days. Charles J. Matinga of Blantyre was elected vice-president.


Mumba unfortunately died the following year. Matinga took over as president till 1949 when he was replaced by Sangala. In 1950 at Mzimba, which was the then headquarters of the Northern Region, James Chinyama from Ntcheu was elected president general for three years until 1953 when at last the founder Sangala was elected president. He also served for three years till 1956. He announced that he was retiring from politics. He was succeeded by T.D.T. Banda from Nkhata Bay whose tenure abruptly ended in 1957 because of a financial scandal. Young members of the NAC, Henry Masauko Chipembere, Kanyama Chiume, Dunduzu Chisiza and Rose Chibambo, resolved at a convention to invite Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda who was practising medicine in Ghana to come home and assume leadership of NAC. He arrived on July 6, 1958 and the following August, he was elected formally as president general of NAC. In October 1960, he was declared the president of NAC.

Some people have asked me why presidents were changing so often. This was so partly because the constitution prescribed one-year term. But the main reason was that NAC was founded by membership subscriptions. There were no millionaires among Africans those days to meet most of the expenses of the party as is the apparent case these days. The member holding paid-up cards were the kingmakers. No one could impose himself on the party.

These days wealthy individuals who fund political parties have diluted the essence of democracy as government of the people by the people for the people. Whoever founds a political party, automatically becomes a life president to be succeeded by a member of his family or someone from the same tribe or origin but not someone from another region. This is retrogressive not progressive politics.


If people of this country are to make use of genuine democracy, they must become party-card members, pay subscriptions and not leave things to a few wealthy individuals. In the end, it is these wealthy people who are running the country behind scenes and amass extra wealth through government contracts.

During the Kamuzu era, women used to buy zilundu from David Whitehead and Sons at subsidised prices. The zilundu were not given for free to the women. These days women followers of every major party receive free zilundu. A lot of money is involved. In return, what do they receive those who buy such uniforms? What we have in Malawi is not genuine democracy but an oligarchy of millionaires.

This oligarchy is demonstrated through the manner the revised constitution has been suppressed. This constitution was drafted by a galaxy of persons from all walks of life in Malawi plus foreign advisers of the highest calibre. This was in the years 2007 and 2008. Up to now, the constitution remains shelved.

In other countries, when there is a controversial clause in the constitution, the final decision is made by a referendum. It seems some people in Malawi do not want reforms such as a re-run of the presidential election where none of the candidates has got at least 50 percent.

I have been writing on this for several years. Now I would suggest that in the 2019 elections voters should vote not only for the president, Members Parliaments and councilors but also on the question of re-run. Voters should be asked: suppose more of the presidential candidate gets more than 50 percent would you agree that there should be a re-run?

Do we want Malawi to remain a peaceful country? Then let us pursue the politics of selflessness not selfishness. Public offices should be open to all not just to those who are privileged either because they belong to the largest tribe in the country or the largest region. The various civil wars which have torn other African countries can be traced to the politics of selfishness; the spirit of it must be us all the time.

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