BLANTRYE--Thousands of opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) followers have largely thronged Comesa Hall in Malawi’s commercial Blantyre to elect the party’s national chairperson who will also be the 2014 general elections candidate.
The faithful, dressed in the party colours, pushed their way into the Comesa Hall which was full to capacity as of 10 am on Tuesday.
Initially, the door was only open to legible delegates identified from across the country but some followers managed to beat security personnel to sneak through, a development that didn't go down well with the organizers of the convention.
Organizing Chairperson Lillian Patel and moderator of the convention Ian Nankhuni took trouble to urge those not on the list of voters to walk out of the hall but this landed on deaf ears as no one was ready to leave.
Meanwhile, more followers, who were outside, could be heard pleading for consideration so they could witness the proceedings of the convention where delegates will elect national treasurer, first and deputy national chairpersons, regional governors, Information Technology Directors, Transport and Logistics Directors and campaign directors, among other top positions.
Notable figures present at the convention include veteran politician Gwanda Chakwamba, ruling People's Party (PP) Secretary General Henry Chibwana, DPP’s Dr Chiyembekeza, and Rev. Andrew Kamponda of CCAP Blantyre Synod.
The convention is in preparation for the 2014 general elections. UDF won the country’s first multi-party elections in 1994 and remained in power until 2004.
Delegates will cast their votes in the afternoon. Economic Planning Minister Atupele Muluzi, Moses Dossi and Ruth Takomana are fighting for the national chairperson seat.
There is also stiff competition in other positions as former Chief Executive Officer of Malawi Electricity Supply Cooperation (Escom) Kandi Padambo and Trade Unionist Austin Kalimanjira tussles with incumbent UDF Secretary General (SG) Kennedy Makwangwala for his position.
Top lawyer Kalekeni Kaphale read out a speech from the party’s patron Bakili Muluzi who is South Africa for medical attention. He told the delegates that the party is “alive and strong and that we are continuing the agenda we set 20 years ago” and it will continue with “change agenda”.
“How do we fold our hands and claim that we have achieved it all when our fuel supplies are way below our required needs to drive our economy?," said Kaphale.
He went on: "How do we claim that we have accomplished our agenda when the majority of our youth are not gainfully employed and cannot make a decent living out of any economic activity?
“How do we stop calling for transformative change when our industries are not performing well? How do we stop the change agenda when the products of our policy on free primary school cannot access higher education?
“As a party, how do we abandon our change agenda when the cost of living is increasingly becoming more unbearable for most Malawians? How do we abandon the reform agenda when the basic needs such as water and electricity are still a luxury?” reads Muluzi’s statement in apart.
Muluzi urged UDF followers to elect and ensure that people from various parts of our country regardless of their age, gender, professional backgrounds and other social categories are elected into the National Executive Committee.
Watch this space for more on this developing story.
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