Barely less sixty days after losing the fresh presidential elections, the centre is failing to hold for the immediate past ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as cracks are emerging.
Wednesday, the party’s president Peter Mutharika fired politician Grezelder Jeffrey from her position of Secretary General over going public with her stance that “the party’s leader has done his part” and that the party would have to call for prompt elective convention.
But Jeffrey, who sounded firm, said will not resign as she was constitutionally assigned to the position by the party at a convention held in 2018.
“I was called by the Hon [Francis] Mphepo that Thursday [today] there is a central executive meeting at the party president’s residence [in Mangochi] and that I should not be party to that meeting.
“He continued to say I no longer have mandate in the party in my capacity as Secretary General. So, I am saying I am not stepping down as the party’s Secretary General because I was elected on this position at a convention. If they want me out, it should be done at the convention,” she said.
Jeffrey added that because the communication asking her to step down was verbal, she will wait for a written one before she responds officially to the party’s rank and file.
She, then, said she will proceed to attend the National Governing Council meeting in Mangochi scheduled for today.
“They have to tell me reasons in writing as Secretary General why I do not have to be at that meeting. Otherwise, I will go there! They should send me back at the gates. I am not even afraid! At that meeting, the head is the president and I am the second in command, so I have to be there,” she said.
Mphepo, DPP’s Administrative Secretary, who was assigned to declare Jeffrey a commoner in the party declined to comment on the matter.
Meanwhile, a senior member of the party, Ben Phiri, has resigned from position of Director of Elections, saying he no longer has fresh and viable strategies to spur the party into another victory, having lost the June 23 fresh presidential election.
In a letter dated August 17, 2020 written to the party’s Secretary General and copied to its president and National Organising Secretary, Phiri also attributed his resignation to accusations by some party members of ‘selling the elections to the then opposition parties for personal gains’.
“I, therefore, deem it noble and civil for me to follow the tradition in the civilised and mature democracies where such a loss would call for responsible office bearers to step down and pave way for fresh minds to take the party forward.
“Owing to the above issues, I am hereby resigning from the post of the party’s Director of Elections. This is not the mandate that I had signed up for. I was retained to steer the party to an electoral victory. Regrettably, I have failed my mandate,” he said.
Phiri who has said will continue being a member of the DPP was appointed to the position by Mutharika.
Mutharika’s Executive Secretary, Linda Salanjira, cut our lines when the issue was brought to her attention for her boss’s reaction. DPP spokesperson, Nicholas Dausi, did not return our calls after several attempts.
In an interview Wednesday, social and political commentator, Makhumbo Munthali, said ‘Jeffrey’s firing’ does not reflect well in as far as intra-party democracy is concerned.
Munthali said this is a tip on the iceberg on how the party is struggling on leadership succession following its loss of the election.
“It also shows that the party is being controlled by a few individuals. There is an inner circle headed by the incumbent president who holds decisions for the party and not the NGC. And from the look of things, we should wait for more of these firings and resignations,” he said.
In a separate interview, political commentator, Ernest Thindwa, said it is not surprising that things are falling apart in the party.
“The case of Ben Phiri that he is resigning, I am sure that if the DPP was still in government he would not do that simply because there were incentives which are greater than the problems he is facing now.
“But the expelling of Grezelder [Jeffrey] is unfortunate because the party is not learning. You need to allow an alternative view point. The more they crack down on dissenting views the more they will weaken the party,” he said.
DPP has been in power from February 2005 when former President late Bingu wa Mutharika resigned from the United Democratic Front until to 2012 after the then embattled Vice President Joyce Banda ascended to presidency following demise of then President.
The party bounced back to power in 2014 when younger brother to Bingu, Peter trounced Banda’s People’s Party.