LILONGWE--Developments this week within the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) should be food for thought for Malawi's ruling party which by the look of things has lost its mojo.
On Tuesday, DPP’s efforts to get its members to come out strongly and vote for a motion against an opposition lawmaker who was involved in a confrontation with a cabinet minister failed to get the dominant party a two thirds majority. While some voted for the motion and others abstained, there were also those who chose to be absent—they walked out before voting took place. Some called the process a “kangaroo court".
After finding the actions of Anita Kalinde (Thyolo North), in the words of one lawmaker "shameful", the MP was suspended for 30 days.
But the DPP/s own Bafomo Nyirenda (Mzimba Luwerezi) said Kalinde was provoked by Home Affairs Minister Aaron Sangala and recommended that he too be suspended.
Bafomo’s view was welcomed by the opposition and some of his DPP colleagues who didn’t add their voice to the chorus condemning Kalinde.
MaraPost saw some ruling party members ignore Speaker Henry Chimunthu Banda's call when he said Government Whip Symon Vuwa Kaunda wanted all the DPP to caucus after taking a break. Apparently unconcerned, some MPs got into their cars and left.
Just what is happening?
The DPP honeymoon after its 2009 landside victory came to end after it started following policies that were seen as divisive. Some sections of the population openly expressed disapproval of the reintroduction of the quota system used to select students to public colleges and public appointments that favoured those from the president’s ethnic group.
The Mutharika administration also went ahead and enacted unpopular measures and these include those which seek to protect the government from being sued and those that restrict free speech by allowing a minister to ban a publication deemed unsuitable for the public. Police can also search a suspect without a warrant.
The passage of these measures was so controversial that some DPP members challenged their party. Former Attorney General and Justice Minister Henry Dama Phoya led the rebellion and the party stripped him of the chairmanship of parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee as punishment.
On Tuesday, after voting thrice, with each time the DPP seeing its numbers falling, the final vote that sealed Kalinde’s fate was as follows: 44 against, 94 in favour and 54 stayed away.
Going forward, what do these developments mean for the DPP which lost a bye-election just in September in a region which voted for it overwhelmingly in 2009? Before voting took place in Rumphi-Central, pundits said the result would indicate where the party stood in the country.
Malawi's relations with traditional donors have worsened over governance concerns, prompting some of the donors to either reduce or cut off their aid to the country that for decades was heavily dependent on foreign aid.
As aid dried up, the Mutharika administration was forced to introduce an austerity budget. The zero deficit budget is supposed to use local resources and the government says all is going well but acute shortages of foreign exchange, fuel and drugs in hospitals tell a different story.
This week former Speaker of Parliament Davies Katsonga in his article 'DPP, reporters don’t be scared, Bingu’s a pussycat’ carried by MaraPost argued that the challenges Malawi is experiencing affect all people regardless of their political affiliation.
Is it unreasonable to say that the reality Katsonga refers to has dawned on some DPP lawmakers?
©2011 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment