Malawi Congress Party delegates snub JZU, vote in Chakwera

MALAWI MCP CONVENTION:  Delegates to the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) convention on Saturday shot down the idea of allowing John Tembo to contest as party president for the third time and, instead, chose former Malawi Assemblies of God president Reverend Lazarus Chakwera to be its May 2014 tripartite elections’ torch bearer.

Chakwera, who takes over from Tembo, won the race after stiff competition from retired Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo. Chakwera is expected to make his acceptance speech Sunday afternoon.

The convention delegates did this through a voice vote at Natural Resources College (NRC) in Lilongwe after convention chairperson Macdonald Lombola sought the delegates’ view on whether Tembo could be allowed to contest as party leader.

There was singing and dancing after Lombola announced that the people’s view that Tembo should not stand had carried the day. A contrary vote would have meant the party changing its constitution to accommodate Tembo as it currently bars him from standing again.

Fifty-eight-year-old Chakwera, who amassed 287 votes, beat 10 other contestants, including former Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo (169), party Secretary General Chris Daza (90 votes), Deputy Secretary General Beston Majoni (7), Director of Elections Joseph Njovuyalema (7), Lilongwe Mpenu MP Watson Makala Ngozo (6), Nkhotakota Central MP Edwin Banda (14), former MP Lyton Dzombe (24), former Farmers Union of Malawi president Felix Jumbe (19), former minister in MCP regime Jodder Kanjere (21) and the party’s former director of political affairs Eston Kakhome (6).

Wild celebrations engulfed the NRC Hall, as Malawi Electoral Commission officials, who presided over the elections, declared Chakwera the winner.

In his opening speech, Tembo, who is also Leader of the Opposition, praised the party’s leaders for their resilience over the years the party has been out of government. The party was booted out of power in 1994, when it lost to former President Bakili Muluzi’s United Democratic Front (UDF).

In his long, cryptic speech, which lasted for close to two hours, Tembo praised the party’s members for standing by the party’s four cornerstones of unity, loyalty, obedience and discipline, which, he said, had made it possible for the party to be alive up to now.

“We have been deprived of our rights on the way. We have been marginalised from participating in public and private sector of our country. MCP members have suffered. But we have not gotten tired. If you are tired now, follow me in retiring,” Tembo said.

Tembo appealed to the delegates to choose leaders who could serve the party well.

“You have to elect leadership that will be selfless, true to the party and the country; leadership that will advance the agenda of no other organisation than that of the MCP,” Tembo said.

Tembo repeated the decision he took to refuse Chakwera’s donation of K600, 000 to the party. He also talked about differences he had with Daza.

He, however, encouraged whoever was going to win the position to promote agriculture, and openly talked about one candidate who in his campaign had been talking about agriculture. Jumbe was in his campaign talking about agricultural revolution.

Tembo also welcomed Mchinji West MP Theresa Mwale and Lilongwe North MP Christina Chiwoko to the party.

Earlier, Lombola said: “At this convention, the 670 delegates will design a roadmap of the party. All Malawians are watching what MCP is doing. We cannot afford to disappoint Malawians.”

British High Commissioner Michael Nevin and Chinese Ambassador Pan Hejun attended the opening ceremony.

Former official hostess to first party and the country’s president and Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, Mama C. Tamanda Kadzamira, dressed in MCP colours, was also present.

UDF secretary general Kandi Padambo and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesperson Nicholas Dausi were also present. The ruling People’s Party (PP), through its secretary general, Paul Maulidi, sent a congratulatory message.

Meanwhile, Political Scientists Association of Malawi general secretary, Ernest Thindwa, has said MCP delegates’ move to reject Tembo’s third term bid is a manifestation that constitutionalism was taking root in the party.

“It is a positive development, and marks a new era in terms of constitutionalism in the MCP. What this means is that everyone (in the MCP) wants to play by the rules of the party without any exceptions. It also means a spirit of constitutionalism is sweeping through the party,” Thindwa said.

On how the delegates’ decision could impact on Tembo’s position as Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Thindwa said the veteran opposition leader’s position was safe.

“The move doesn’t affect his position at all because the laws that govern issues to do with Leader of the Opposition stipulate that the largest opposition party produces the leader [of opposition], and the leader is elected in that capacity. So, this will have no legal implications on his position, and the position can only be affected after next year’s [Tripartite] elections,” Thindwa said.

During the presidential vote a total 659 were cast of which seven were null and void votes.


–  By Macdonald Thom and Richard Chirombo

– Picture courtesy of MCP convention updates on Facebook



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