UTM anger runs deep – The Times Group Malawi
Frustrated to breaking point at the ostracization of their leader, Saulos Chilima, UTM members took turns last week to vent out their anger at the party’s leadership and the Chakwera administration. It happens that their bad feeling of the Tonse Alliance is real and profound.
At a rally in Blantyre on Sunday, UTM party members took turns to blast the government of President Lazarus Chakwera on a range of issues – an attack which some quarters interpreted as a demonstration of a serious parting of ways between the party’s membership and their leaders who have positions in this administration.
If that show was to be taken lightly by anyone, there are suggestions that the bad feeling runs deep in UTM, the party’s spokesperson Frank Mwenefumbo has confirmed to Malawi News
And Tonse Alliance spokesperson Kamuzu Chibambo said they are working on kickstarting internal process to resolve the issues.
At the heart of it all is that Vice President Saulos Chilima is now a mere lame duck following Chakwera’s stripping off of Chilima’s ministerial powers and delegated responsibilities in January and in June this year respectively.
In January, Chakwera stripped Chilima off economic planning ministerial role.
In June, the President also took away all delegated responsibilities from Chilima after being named in the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) report on alleged corrupt dealings by businessman Zuneth Sattar.
“He remains Vice President today only by virtue of the vote he got in the elections [in 2020]. But he has nothing else,” Mwenefumbo said.
At the recent rally at Nyambadwe school ground in Blantyre, some members of the UTM asked Chilima to quit the alliance.
Among those who spoke is one of the party’s directors Louis Ngalande who said Chilima is being disrespected in the alliance.
“All I am trying to say [is that] people have observed lack of participation [in the government] by the UTM but it is not even a secret. This year in January, Right Honourable Dr. Saulos Chilima who was also serving as the Minister of Economic Planning and Development was reshuffled from the cabinet, he was stripped off those ministerial duties,” he said.
The members took turns blasting the Chakwera-led government over the country’s socio-economic challenges. But UTM leaders Patricia Kaliati and Michael Usi, who are both cabinet ministers, played down the rantings of their members.
This week, Mwenefumbo reasserted those concerns in an interview.
He said Chilima has no executive powers following the cabinet reshuffle and the withholding of his delegated duties as Vice President.
“He was only left with reforms [after the portfolio of economic planning was taken away] and then in June we all heard it loud and clear that he was mentioned in a corruption case by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB). Therefore, he was stripped of his delegated duties. The little role or the remaining role that Chilima had was again taken away from him.
“All that remains for him [Chilima] in this government or arrangement is a direct election by the people through the vote that they gave him,” he said.
Mwenefumbo further said that what was said during the rally is a true reflection of how the party members feel.
In his view, UTM’s allegiance to the alliance does not make political sense.
“He is the Vice President today not because someone appointed him but simply because Malawians elected him in this Tonse Alliance.
“Otherwise, Dr Chilima has no executive powers in this government. He does not participate in the policy arrangement in this country because he does not have any cabinet post or delegated post in this government and this has frustrated members of the UTM, hence the calling for the UTM and its leadership to withdraw its membership from this alliance because it does not make any political sense.
“That is according to the people and not Mwenefumbo but these are the voices of the people whom we are serving. They do not see any political sense for the UTM to continue to remain in the government where they are perceived to be irrelevant. This is the feedback that has come from the people,” he said.
In a separate interview, Chibambo said the alliance will have to look at the issues raised internally and see how they can be addressed.
“I was away but I managed to listen to some of the speeches that were said during the UTM rally.
“Well, what I can say is that some of them went overboard. I would not want to say much through the media but what now remains is the internal process to kick-start to resolve these issues. They are best resolved out of the public eye because that way, you are able to achieve more instead of resolving these issues in the public eye,” he said.
There was no immediate comment from both Malawi Congress Party publicist Maurice Munthali and the party’s Secretary General Eisenhower Mkaka.
Political analysts Mustapha Hussein and George Phiri said the two major alliance partners need to have a dialogue to resolve the emerging differences.
“I think that it just shows there is a need for some dialogue between the Tonse Alliance partners, specifically MCP and UTM, so that they are always on the same page. It is expected that where there are two parties in some form of an alliance, misunderstandings can come about. All that is needed is to put in place a system where alliance partners should be dialoguing openly on issues that arise,” Hussein said.
Phiri said the concerns by UTM members are valid.
He further said the gap is widening, as evident by the way supporters of the two parties behave towards each other.
“We have seen that the President stripped the VP off his duties; it has been three months or so and nothing is being said or seen moving, so the frustrations raised by the UTM members are valid. The alliance must take that into consideration and talk about it,” he said.
The Tonse Alliance— which has nine political parties— supported MCP candidate Lazarus Chakwera in the June 23 2020 presidential election.