By Duncan Mlanjira
The United Democratic Front (UDF) National Executive Committee (NEC) held an extraordinary meeting on September 20 to discuss a range of issues regarding the critical work of the party, particularly with regards to its performance during recent fresh elections and ongoing efforts are underway to rebuild into a stronger political entity for the good of the country.
A press statement from acting National Publicity Secretary, Yusuf Mwawa, said the NEC met at its secretariat at New Naperi in Blantyre where it unanimously resolved — amongst other issues — that all UDF structures including the NEC members should seek a fresh mandate after the finalization of the party’s strategic plan.
“The national conference has appointed a committee to develop its strategic plan be completed within 9 months to look into the road map and plan for the Extraordinary National Conference,” said the statement from Mwawa.
“The entire UDF leadership realizes that our supporters are massively disappointed with our recent performances and are wanting to put things right — to get on with rebuilding to fight again.
“The party believes that the work begins now and that the National Executive Committee and all party structures must seek a fresh mandate in preparation for the next elections.”
The statement further says the UDF meeting, that was attended by all NEC membership, including its Members of Parliament and was chaired by party President Atupele Muluzi, resolved that the party must move towards reorganizing itself by holding elections starting from the constituency, district, region and finally the NEC, soon after the finalization of its strategic plan as well as review of its performance after the recent elections.
“The review process will be extremely important in order to get to the bottom of the questions being asked by many of our supporters as to what has gone wrong and why it has gone wrong,” says the statement.
“These are important questions that need to be answered so that the party can do better in future. It is therefore encouraging that the UDF leadership, led by Rt. Hon. Atupele Muluzi is embracing the review process and is open to feedback as well as constructive criticism.”
Mwawa said the NEC also discussed the party’s participation at the by-elections to be held soon and that the NEC would like to reconnect with the electorate and give a fresh distinctive vision for the future of Malawi with policies that resonate with the people.
The strategic plan will also allow the party to strength its overall objectives and on how it can effectively achieve those objectives on behalf of its supporters.
“This will involve stepping back as a party to seek views from our supporters, members, grassroots structures on what they expect from their party, its internal party democracy, its management and what our priorities should be.
“Through this process, we shall seek to repair the rifts that may have occurred over the years that have made some of our structures or supporters feel sidelined that there is lack of adequate consultation in decision making.
“This will be our first strategic plan and we are being assisted by a donor organization focused on strengthening governance and political parties.
“An internal committee has been established comprising relevant departments of the party and headed by its director of research. We shall also have external support from policy and political experts in the country.”
The UDF says highlights will also include among others, party financing, a review of roles and responsibilities of party office bearers.
“For instance, we have seen the emergence of a culture of the everything centered on the President of the party and a poor understanding of the divisions of responsibility.
“The committee has also been mandated to include in its program a roadmap towards an extraordinary conference within the next 9 months.”
The meeting further heard and considered the report of serious misconduct by it’s deputy organising secretary, Andrew Nkhana, who has been suspended both from his position and as a member of the party with immediate effect pending a disciplinary hearing.
Asked if the alliance with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) over and if it just for the June 23 fresh presidential elections, Mwawa said the UDF is an autonomous organization and it enters into alliances depending on the political need.
“In 2004, the UDF entered into an alliance with the Alliance For Democracy (AFORD) and in 2009 the UDF entered into electoral alliance with the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and others.
“The UDF entered into an electoral alliance with the DPP ahead of the fresh presidential elections this year and the alliance was based on a common agenda that the parties believe in — that of democracy, peace, stability and economic development.
“By participating in an election, parties exercise their rights and whether the party wins or loses the benefit is in the participation.
“The UDF and DPP are both in the opposition, providing constructive criticism with respect to how the new government is delivering on its promises to the people of Malawi,” Mwawa said.
On whether the Alliance with the DPP was really necessary and if it reaped any fruits, Mwawa said the Constitutional Court held that the threshold for election as president must now be over 50% of total votes cast and the Supreme Court upheld this position.
“As it stood then, a single party reaching that threshold was a tall order. I think we are now entering into an era of political alliances ahead of elections unless the party feels that it can win alone.
“We did, however, manage to garner 1.7 million votes at the last elections. We did not win the elections but those figures cannot be ignored.”
The UDF MPs in the august House are 10 — Ismael Mkumba (Ndirande Malabada Constituency); Rodrick Khumbanyiwa (Chikwawa East; Nedson Poya (Zomba Ntonya); Kapichira Mussa (Mangochi Malombe); Aishah Mambo (Mangochi Nkungulu); Lilian Patel (Mangochi South); Idi Carlos (Mangochi North East but will be rerun); Grant Ndecha (Machinga South); Esther Jolobala (Machinga East) and Ibrahim Yahard Msadala (Nkhotakota South East).
The UDF, which is now 29 years old has one of the founders Dr. Bakili Muluzi as its patron, who does not have a specific role in the affairs of the party but is highly respected “as an elder statesman and many Malawians continue to seek his counsel and advice” as said by Mwawa.