The then Israeli Foreign Minister, Abban Eban, once referred to Israel’s neighbors as people who “never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity”. There are times in the world when all proverbial stars line up for a certain outcome, but the opportunity still gets missed because of carelessness and lack of foresight.
By all accounts, the Tonse Alliance is at its lowest point today. Divisions are growing; the president is grappling with unprecedented pandemic and in the process failing to fulfill his most basic promises.
He promised to reshuffle cabinet in December, he has not yet done so; he promised 1 million jobs, but available evidence appears to show that Malawi is in fact losing jobs; and after bumbling with the K6.2 billion scandal, Dr Chakwera announced the firing of certain individuals who it now appears are not really fired.
In a normal world, while the Tonse Alliance is doing a good job of discrediting itself, the DPP would have been busy silently rebuilding itself under its current leadership. Then in 2024 a much stronger DPP would emerge, hold a convention, and pivot into the general election with momentum from the convention.
History has shown that, everything else considered, a party becomes very formidable when it holds its convention and anoints its candidate very close to the general elections. Energy from party conventions is what normally catapults candidates into election wins.
Of course, that’s not what is happening in the DPP world. People are so impatient that they have already started campaigning for party presidency. Not only has the campaigning started, but party infighting has also shown up — I mean ‘fighting’ literally.
Three candidates have already come forward. And for all their impatience, it is surprising to see how mediocre they are. The first of the pack is Hon Kondwani Nankhumwa. He comes with quiet an impressive background. He is the Leader of Opposition in Parliament and the vice-president of the DPP responsible for the Southern Religion.
A businessman, Nankhumwa’s only style of campaigning is distributing stuff. For some time, he was regarded as a successor to APM. But he has now fallen out of grace with the party. A few hours ago, thugs claiming to be associated with him physically attacked the party’s publicity secretary at a press conference.
His chances of winning the DPP presidency are falling fast. Even if he were to win the DPP presidency, there is very slim chance that he can beat Chakwera. To this day Hon Namkhumwa, who has spent many weeks zigzagging the country, has said nothing about his strategy for making Malawi a better nation. He has not said why he is better than Chakwera, and why people should choose him in the 2025 elections. Hon. Namkhumwa’s only path to the presidency would be to get the DPP team up with the UTM and then accept the running mate role in the alliance.
The next candidate is the newcomer to politics, Dr Dalitso Kabambe. An economist and former Reserve Bank governor, Dr Kabambe has already started crisscrossing the country. The man speaks like a church elder from Manjalende village church. He has only one speech which he repeats all over the country: “I was with Bingu, I was with APM, and I also come from the district where they come from”. And that is his entire campaign speech!
Dr Kabambe has not bothered to explain what he thinks of the current state of affairs in the country, how he would do better as president, and what policies he will pursue to turn the country around. In fact, he says he is proud of the work he did on the economy while he was in the civil service. He says he engineered everything.
It is not clear which part of the economy he is specifically proud of considering that the country has not really had a good economic performance for a long time. Malawi is still one of the poorest nations in the world. If Dr Kabambe were to win the DPP presidency, 2025 would surely be a disaster for the DPP.
Hon Joseph Mwanamvekha is also rumored to be eyeing the position. He is the shadow minister of finance. He has spent the last few months driving around the country under the pretense of listening to the people on economic matters. Just like the other two, Hon Mwanamvekha has not given a vision of how Malawi could look like under his presence.
The overriding characteristic of the three candidates is lack of charisma. The man they are trying to beat is quite charismatic and clever, if not cunning. The party would do well not to bring boys to a men’s fight.
DPP has a lot of work to do. Dr Bingu wa Mutharika swept the whole Northern Region in his landslide re-election. In the following years, negligence and unfortunate statements by some leaders, helped drive many northerners away from the party. The party’s image also took a hit with the unfortunate stereotypes of nepotism and tribalism.
Instead of fighting in the press, and taking oxygen away from the real scandals from MCP, DPP needs to get back to the drawing board and quietly start working on these issues. The current party president promised to hold on to his position until he has rebuilt and rejuvenated the party. I believe that is a wise move. It is reckless to hold a convention now for an election that is literally 4 years away!
Given the problems Chakwera is grappling with; and given the mishaps and the incompetence of his government, opportunities for DPP to get back in government abound. To paraphrase Abban Eban, the DPP must not be a party that never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
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