o sanity has finally prevailed in the once-upon-a-time mighty UDF. Suddenly leaders in the fractured party have finally realised the bitter wrangle they were engaged in was political buffoonery that will win them no votes any time.
Good luck to the three-time ruling party, but I have a message for the yellow camp: the UDF has become so tattered a curtain, to borrow its former chairman's speak, that it will take a skilful tailor to mend it. I am naturally optimistic but sometimes one has to be realistic. Young kids just learning politics now would think you are selling them a dummy if you told them the UDF once boasted some 99 seats in Parliament and had actually won three consecutive polls.
You see, there was a time the UDF was a truly national party with MPs in the traditional MCP stronghold of the Central Region and powerful executive members from the North. In fact the UDF in 1994 scored a 'hat-trick' by having a Speaker plus both the First and Second deputy speakers. Because of the UDF's appeal President Bakili Muluzi neutralised his one-time toughest opponent Chakufwa Tom Chihana of Aford and roped him in as Second Vice-President.
But now the UDF is a sorry shadow of its old self. The party that had its traditional base in the South belt with its stronghold being the Yao heartland can now afford to lose seats in Mangochi of all places.
But the UDF woes are of its own making. The party just refused to embrace democracy. Its leaders thought by kicking out Dr. Banda it had bought the country and therefore it could do anything with it. At first it started toying with the idea that their leader, Muluzi, was the best thing that could happen to Malawi and had earned the right to be there until he breathed his last.
I refuse the charge by some UDF gurus that it was Muluzi who wanted to rule forever. If he indeed hatched that idea why could these folks not stop him? I remember how some of the people who are trying to be democrats now vilified those who tried to oppose dissenters like Brown Mpinganjira. Muluzi could surely have not hoped to push for his 'third' or 'open' term agenda without support of these senior people.
The UDF has a lot of home-work to do before it establishes itself as a credible party - again. If truth be told, gurus in the party still believe Atupele Muluzi is not his own man. To most of them the young man is only doing his dad's bidding. Knowing the older Muluzi's political chivalry you cannot put that past him.
But who is clean in the UDF now to claim to be a full democrat? Who indeed will cast the first stone?
If the UDF has to make another mark on the Malawi political arena it has to re-group completely. Those who started the 'original' UDF like Bakili Muluzi and Brown Mpinganjira have to be seen to be operating from one front. I know the bad blood that still runs between the leader and the erstwhile right-hand man. I am not sure what tittle-tattle BJ and Atcheya engage in when they bump into each other at President Joyce Banda's house because the two still have scores to settle if you see what I mean.
People like Sam Mpasu suffered because of their perceived ambitions within the power struggle in the UDF. I am sure that the former Speaker hasn’t forgiven Atcheya about how he was ejected from the plum Speakership. But Mpasu had the misfortune of serving jail-time under two presidents but the Kamuzu one was inevitable, the Mutharika one came from his fight with Muluzi over how he presided over the third term vote.
Now we have two UDF camps trying to reconcile. Where are they going to begin? We have, on one side, people who believe the present woes are a result of Muluzi refusing to retire while the other thinks some people want to profiteer from the UDF name without working for it.
For the life of me I don’t see how Atupele Austin Muluzi, after tasting the messianic welcome of his dad, would give ground to Jumbe. Likewise, I don’t see how the former finance minister (Jumbe) would give way to a 'baby', as Cassim Chilumpha described Muluzi's son. It’s good that Kaka Chilumpha has quit the struggle but I know Angoni Mpasu is still bitter Muluzi gave him a raw deal. I still believe Jumbe can’t allow to play second fiddle to a political 'baby'.
I don’t envy both sides of the UDF struggle because I know both sides have issues larger than themselves. As they say, "talk is cheap"; let us see the action.