Internal leadership squabbles rocking Malawi political parties as Chilima vindicates cracks in Tonse Alliance

Chilima and Chakwera in better times

* The best would be to terminate the Alliance now if there is insistence from other elements within the Alliance and their advocacy for a split as we move towards 2025

* The Alliance represented, to the extent possible, the aspirations of the people of Malawi as we best understood them

* The Political Alliance Agreement that we signed on that day was premised on trust, mutual respect and the common desire for a better Malawi

* The Agreement was signed for a period 10 years in which both Dr Chakwera and I would support one another to lead for one term

By Duncan Mlanjira

The Political Alliance Agreement that Vice-President Saulos Chilima’s UTM Party that was signed on March 19, 2020 President Lazarus Chakwera’s Malawi Congress Party (MCP) was for a period 10 years in which both leaders were to support one another for Chakwera to lead for one term.


This was said by Chilima today, July 1 in his national address in Lilongwe — which has vindicated that there are deep cracks in the Tonse Alliance which started circulating after an MCP caucus where prominent leaders of the party had emphasized that Chakwera would run for office come 2025.

Chilima said the Agreement “was premised on trust, mutual respect and the common desire for a better Malawi [and] if there is insistence from other elements within the Alliance and their advocacy for a split, the best would be to terminate the Alliance now as we move towards 2025”.

He disclosed that the Tonse Alliance agreement had two main partners; — the MCP and UTM, saying “inspired by our forebearers’ wisdom of unity of purpose and determination, we came together in March, 2020 to put up a common political front in what was, for all purposes, meant to be a watershed presidential election for this country”.

“We faced a battle for the soul of this nation. The battle had to be won. We all contributed in one way or another: prayer, time, food, life, money; you name it. We even prayed to unite with those who we felt let us down.

Chilima and Chakwera during the Constitutional Court hearing

“Perhaps that is part of what we mean when we say we are a God fearing nation. The unity of national purpose we demonstrated must always remind us that we are one people, anthufe tonse ndi amodzi!!”

He described March 19, 2020 as a historic day in Malawi, saying the signing ceremony “marked the conclusion of a pulsating process involving technical teams from the two political parties”.

He further said the consultations and engagement between the two parties were based on instructions that Chakwera and Chilima gave to them after their respective political parties had separately passed resolutions mandating them to finalise and agree on a Political Alliance Agreement with a view to fostering unity and bringing the liberation to the people of Malawi.

Those involved in the drafting the Agreement were many but Chilima made special mention of Titus Mvalo, Ambassador Steve Matenje SC, Chikosa Silungwe, Lekani Loga and Prince Kapondamgaga as prominent, while Pastor Martin Thom brought Chakwera and Chilima in one place to discuss Malawi’s future as “others were talking in groups”.

The brains behind the Tonse Alliance

“The UTM did not join the Alliance for political convenience — rather, it was a profound recognition that beyond the fresh presidential election, the immense challenges that we face as a nation could only be defeated through unity of purpose, commonality of interests and harnessing all the available capacities and abilities across the nation.

“The Alliance represented, to the extent possible, the aspirations of the people of Malawi as we best understood them. It was an Alliance, by public demand and popular will, in the true sense of these terms. It is important that we always remember this genesis, so that we must guard against, and nip in the bud, any regressive elements that would divert our efforts to focus on fighting division and petty bickering; instead of concentrating our efforts to deliver on our promises made on the campaign trail.”

“Today, it is heartening to note that our intentions for getting into that Alliance have borne some fruits but at the same time disheartening that a few things remain outstanding and surely need resolution.”

He then divulged the contents of the Political Alliance Agreement, which he acknowledged that the contents “have remained unknown to the wider general public”, whose preamble objectives were:

(a) for contesting the fresh election as president and running mate, which we resolved in the best interest of the nation – there was no place for personal priorities, there was a nation before us to be saved and served and a clear path to that had been mapped by the people of Malawi;

(b) to increase the chances of winning the fresh election, which we phenomenally achieved together; and importantly,

(c) to work together after the election in pursuit of the parties’ common goals of serving the people of Malawi in the attainment of their development aspirations.


Clause 2 of the Agreement stipulates the Guiding Principles of the Alliance as:

(a) Transparency whereby “UTM and MCP agree to be open with each other and transparent in their dealings with regard to the implementation of [the] Agreement” : clause 2.1.1;

(b) Good faith whereby “UTM and MCP undertake to implement this Agreement in good faith and not to do anything that may frustrate this Agreement” :clause 2.1.2;

(c) National interest whereby “UTM and MCP agree to implement this Agreement in the interest of national unity and development in accordance with the Constitution and the Laws of Malawi for the benefit of the people of Malawi” :clause 2.1.3;

(d) Unity and togetherness whereby “UTM and MCP agree to be united with a common vision and unity of purpose in the implementation of [the] Agreement” :clause 2.1.4;

(e) Good governance whereby “UTM and MCP undertake to be guided by the principles of good governance, rule of law and respect for human rights in the implementation of [the] Agreement” : clause2.1.5;

(f) Non-discrimination whereby “UTM and MCP undertake not to engage in any form of discrimination of any kind and all appointments pursuant to the implementation of [the] Agreement shall be on merit” :clause 2.1.6;

(g) Mutual trust whereby “UTM and MCP shall ensure constant engagement with each other to build trust and confidence”: clause2.1.7;

(h) Mutual respect whereby “UTM and MCP undertake to respect each other in all undertakings, shall not undermine each other in any other form or way both in public and in private and shall treat each other including their respective members as equals”: clause 2.1.8;

(i) Integrity whereby “UTM and MCP shall execute [the] Agreement with utmost integrity, especially when faced with the choice between what is convenient and what is right;” :clause 2.1.9

(j) Consultation whereby “UTM and MCP shall consult each other thoroughly before any decision that may be deemed crucial by any of the Parties is made” :clause 2.1.10; and

(k) Consensus whereby “UTM and MCP undertake to make decisions [under the] Agreement by consensus in order to formulate a nationally owned, and broadly supported, policy position” :clause 2.1.11.


Further, the Agreement was made in pre-election and post-election contexts respectively. The post-election context starts in clause 3.2 where the Malawi Congress Party and the UTM committed to a few covenants and I highlight a few:

(a) To implement the recommendations of the 2007 Law Commission Report on the Review of the Constitution;

(b) To amend section 91(2) of the Constitution in order to remove immunity of the President from criminal prosecution; and

(c) The Malawi Congress Party and the UTM agreed to be equal partners.

And in the Pre-election contest, the following was agreed:

i. That the Presidents of the Malawi Congress Party and the UTM shall agree in writing who would be candidate and who would be running mate

ii. That subject to the decision of the national executive committees or conventions, as the case may be, of the UTM and the Malawi Congress Party, the presidential candidate during the fresh presidential election of 23 June, 2020 shall not be the presidential candidate during the immediate next election and shall cede the candidacy to the running mate in the fresh presidential election of 23 June, 2020.


“But if for any reason this were to change, a process similar to what ensued before the Agreement was signed ought to follow,” went on Chilima. “There is no wisdom in name calling, abuse, arrogance, humiliation or indeed violence for something that came into being amid smiles and a sense of hope for many generations.

“Any departure from the Agreement amounts to political fraud not only on the parties to the Agreement, but also on the popular will that mandated the Alliance in the first place.

“From my end, I want to assure you, fellow Malawians, that every effort is being, and will be made to resolve any departures from the Agreement, and this is all for the purpose of achieving the logic and objects of the Agreement for the sole benefit of the people of Malawi who trusted us under the Alliance and ushered us into Government.

“The behaviour that seems to place some partner under the Alliance as the sole voice that swayed the popular vote of the 23 June, 2020 presidential election must be frowned upon.

“Indeed, if we were to terminate the Alliance, in honesty we would have to call for a fresh presidential election. We should not continue our journey to 2025 with two hearts — one inside and another outside of the Alliance.

“We have a nation to serve. Our political ambitions should never paralyse national progress. It is utterly irresponsible to be narrow and parochial in conducting the affairs of this country using the power and place merely entrusted to us by the people.

“Politics must serve the people of Malawi as a whole by the end of the day. Politics must not be practiced in a way that serves the interests of a few and ends up frustrating the aspirations of the people of Malawi.

“We need to unlearn our obsessions with power and privilege. It is a disservice to the country and completely misguided.”