July 14, 2003

Dispute on presidential candidature

The differences in Malawi’s ruling party UDF are getting sharper: Outgoing President Bakili Muluzi has declared that no Muslim can win the forthcoming elections no matter what, because the Malawian electorate can not be easily fooled now. Muluzi made these remarks last week when he opened the UDF mini-convention which took place in Blantyre to amend the UDF constitution.

According to a source who attended the convention, the president told the delegates that Malawi is not ready for another Muslim president because the majority of voters in the country are Christians. Muluzi was reacting to the de-campaigning of his anointed heir, Bingu wa Mutharika, a Christian, by top UDF leaders in their rallies. He told us in plain language that any person who is de-campaigning Mutharika, whether he is a Muslim or not is just wasting his time because his choice is final and he will be vindicated after the elections,' said the source. Muluzi's remarks effectively mean that Cassim Chilumpha, the current vice presidential candidate, a devout practicing Muslim from Nkhota kota who had intensified his campaign to unseat Mutharika will have no chance to contest as President at the forthcoming convention slated for August 8.

The source explained that Muluzi told Chilumpha that Malawians are not foolish any more to elect another Muslim president because this country has a large number of informed voters who are Christians. 'The president was very angry that despite warning the presidential aspirants on more than three occasions they are still decampaigning his chosen heir. He told them that it was a deliberate ploy to have Mutharika as the front-runner because it will be very easy to convince the majority of the voters that the UDF is a party which takes care of the interests of Christians as well, and that the ten years he has been in power are enough for the Muslims,' said the source.

Muluzi's remarks have come as a body blow to Chilumpha who, for the past three months had intensified his campaign to challenge Mutharika for the position of party president. It is alleged that Chilumpha was sending some UDF governors to South Africa to buy suits so that they vote for him during the forthcoming convention. Two weeks ago Chilumpha told a meeting at Masintha ground in Kawale that a person who was not capable of driving a Corolla could not be entrusted with the task of steering a truck. Bingu wa Mutharika was the President of the now defunct United Party which faired miserably during the 1999 elections.

Apart from Chilumpha, another person who made it clear that he was also intending to challenge Mutharika was Vice President Justin Malewezi. Malewezi ignored Mutharika during a mass rally held at M'bang'ombe in T/A Chitukula three weeks ago by not giving him a chance to address the public. He also indirectly attacked Muluzi's chosen one by saying that new comers in the party should not just rush in to take presidential positions but rather, they should show respect to those who founded the party. 'You should not just join us looking for higher positions in this party. You should first of all listen to us and respect us because we are the founders of this party,' Malewezi said during the rally.

The ruling United Democratic Front has been divided further with the ascendancy of Mutharika to the seat of President because he is a Christian. He is largely regarded as a rank outsider with nothing to offer to the success of the UDF in May 2004.

The Chronicle has been reliably informed that during the forthcoming convention delegates will just rubber stamp Muluzi's selection of Mutharika, endorsing him without question or debate as the next President for fear of embarrassing him and the president if a meaningful contest and voting was to take place. This arrangement effectively means that challengers like Justin Malewezi, Moses Dossi, Cassim Chilumpha, Sam Mpasu and Harry Thomson have been systematically taken out of the run for the number one seat in the UDF. (The Chronicle Newspaper, Lilongwe)

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