United Democratic Front (UDF) Member of Parliament for Balaka North, Lucius Banda says he will challenge the party’s president Atupele Muluzi during the party’s forthcoming convention alleging that at the moment, the party lacks a leader who is committed to the party’s agenda.
Banda said this in an interview with Malawi News agency (Mana) on Wednesday in Dowa soon after meeting the district’s party committee where he appealed and encouraged the leaders to unite in rebuilding the party.
Banda, who was accompanied by the party’s First Vice President Igbar Omar, said UDF is a democratic party and that is why its leadership has called for a convention where everyone will be free to compete for any position.
He trashed assertions by some people who have been saying that the party had died, saying the UDF belongs to people.
“UDF is alive and strong. It’s the people at the grass root who make up a party, the fact that the leader went into government does not mean the party has died. The party will die when there will be no people,” he said.
On his part, the party’s first vice president said he will support Banda’s bid to become president of UDF since he has demonstrated that he is a leader who cannot be easily swayed by inducements.
Omar said UDF was still strong in Dowa and other parts of the country, but only needed good leadership ahead of the 2019 tripartite elections, adding he has observed good leadership traits in Banda. He appealed to the party committee in Dowa to support Banda for his UDF presidential bid.
Commenting on the message by Banda, some UDF party leaders who attended the meeting said they appreciated the effort by the UDF presidential aspirant in trying to revamp the party to make it more popular.
Dowa UDF chairlady, Evelyn Phiri said UDF members found themselves lacking direction after its leader joined government and have now been relieved with the coming of Banda to address, encourage and give them direction.
“We will work hard, and see to it that if there are some people who left the party because they had been discouraged, they will rejoin since we now have a leader,” she said.
District governor for the party, Samuel Gwetsera said the coming of Banda to address them was encouraging and pledged the district’s support for him.
Asked if he did not like their party president working with the government to help in its development agenda irrespective of party affiliation and tribe among others, Gwetsera said he liked it but with reservations.
“We are not against our president working with the DPP-led government, what we don’t like is that he is doing nothing to help the party.
“He should have used one hand to work for the government and another to lift our party. He should have used his position to gain experience with which to help our party,” he said.
President Mutharika appointed UDF President Atupele Muluzi into cabinet soon after the 2014 tripartite elections to help his government in its development agenda. However, this was met with resistance by some UDF officials who feared the move would weaken their party.
Banda is the only UDF parliamentarian who refused to relocate to government side in the national assembly when all members of the party did so in 2016.
He was once convicted after being found guilty of presenting a forged Malawi School Certificate of Education in 2004 during the reign of former DPP President, the late Bingu wa Mutharika.