Tuesday, April 24, 2007

But Chimbayo seems to be an outsider in UDF altogether

But Chimbayo seems to be an outsider in UDF altogether

But Chimbayo seems to be an outsider in UDF altogether
by Wongani Mugaba

When the Nation unearthed the GTZ Forum for Dialogue and Peace report that Former president and UDF national chairman DR Bakili Muluzi is earmarking Former Army Commander General Joseph Chimbayo as UDF presidential hopeful for 2009 General elections, many people lavished it as total dreams. The UDF chair demanded an apology from the-would be authors of the report or face court action. A few days after, the GTZ Forum apologized through the press stating that the report was leaked while in its proof stages and in such stages all issues lacking evidence are dislodged. The story has blown like wind but there is no smoke without fire an ordinary proverb states. More importantly history repeats it self, just like old habits die-hard.

When UDF strongman Brown Mpinganjira and company left the then ruling party in 2001, they preached to the whole nation that Muluzi was contemplating of vying for a third term. Most people however thought otherwise regarding them as political confusionists. Prior to his leaving, then treasurer and rumoured UDF financier James Makhumula had been dismissed on his post for allegedly decampaining Muluzi’s wishes to stand for a third term. Until a year later could we get sense of Mpinganjira’s claims when fallen UDF hero and party governor Davis Kapito started campaigning for Muluzi’s third term. Muluzi did not publicly state whether he would seek another term, but his actions spoke louder. Many UDF functionaries and cabinet ministers who were against the bid were fired including Jan Sonke and Peter Kaleso. On the contrary the proponents of the bid such as Chakufwa Chihana and Khwauli Msiska were appointed to cabinet positions. The third term bill fortunately was defeated by a minus three votes.
Muluzi and the UDF still however, kept mum on who would assume the mantle after the flopping of the third term, but rumours hovered that then unpopular DR Bingu wa Mutharika, deputy reserve bank governor would succeed him. In a lion speed rise, Bingu was initially appointed as minister of economic planning and development in 2003 by Muluzi, heightening the rumours further.

“The UDF national executive and the cabinet have unanimously elected Dr Bingu wa Mutharika and DR Cassim Chilumpha as the 2004 presidential candidate and running mate respectively” declared Muluzi a few months later through the then rare state of the nation addresses monitored on the public broadcasters, confirming the rumours. Defections from the party followed and we saw the party’s first vice president Aleke Banda quit UDF and eventually then vice president of the republic DR Justin Malewezi. Most party members and political commentators regarded Mutharika as an outsider in UDF imposed on the people to be the former presidents puppet.

“Bingu is the former COMESA secretary general and was fired by Chakalakala Chaziya. He is former deputy reserve bank governor, former World Bank and IMF economist and a holder of a PhD in economic development” was all the press could describe him. If there were additions it was that he lost miserably to Muluzi in the 1999 general elections on the UP’s ticket, also trailing behind Gwanda Chakuamba but running neck to neck with MDP’s party boss Kamlepo Kalua. Muluzi however brushed aside the assertions that Mutharika was a stranger in UDF. In May 2004, Muluzi handed over leadership of the country to Mutharika following the party’s success in the elections. This time around Mutharika, on a UDF ticket, beat all the candidates who had stamped on him in the 1999 elections.

A few months later Mutharika, found it too hot to stay in the party that ushered him to power and quit. Political analysts hailed his move stressing that it would allow him to stretch his muscles on graft and catch the “ big fish” which Father Masauko had called for at the Njamba reconciliation prayers, soon after the general elections. Though Mutharika has done fairy well in the economic sector, most human rights watchdogs say he is failing in promoting human rights.

But who is Chimbayo anyway? Other than being an officer in the army, Chimbayo has never been a politician. Even after president Mutharika terminated his duties last year, he has not publicly stated of harbouring ambitions to join politics. He was appointed as army commander general on 16 January 1998 replacing general Kelvin Simwaka who was sent to a diplomatic mission in Harare, Zimbabwe. His appointment came barely a day after some army officers had raided the Daily Times newspaper offices for publishing a story on AIDS prevalence in the Malawi military. Prior to his appointment, he was commandant of the Malawi Armed Forces College which trains office cadets, the top-notch officers in the military.

Unmasking events on the political arena, the UDF does not have a clearly identifiable candidate about two and half years before kick starting the presidential race. MCP is likely to field John Tembo while ruling DPP says Mutharika will be the man. The UDF has Brown Mpinganjira, Friday Jumbe and Cassim Chilumpha as their most likely candidates, though there are other “insiders” who are unknown to the public and may be hooked in, the Mutharika way.

Mpinganjira a graduate journalist by profession is the most suitable candidate as he has vast experience in politics and was among the first members of the party. In addition he has no court cases to answer and comes from Mulanje, a UDF strong hold. The fact that he once ditched the party reminds the party members that history repeats itself. Also considering that Bingu “ painfully resigned” after winning the elections make things even worse. Friday Jumbe an economist by profession may be another good asset for UDF to sell. He hails from Chiradzulu in UDF stronghold and has sufficient experience in politics though a little less than his two counterparts. This may however depend on the outcome of the pending fraud case, in which he has to explain how he got funds to construct his Superior hotel in Blantyre. Cassim Chilumpha has an advantage of being a very loyal UDF son. As former minister during Muluzi’s reign and as current veep of the republic he has vast experience in politics. He has two major setbacks, firstly to win the treason case and secondly he comes from Nkhotakota in the central region, which is MCP’s stronghold.

But Chimbayo seems to be an outsider in UDF altogether. As an army officer, he was supposed to be nonpartisan during the time of service. There is no doubt that Mr. Chimbayo observed this requirement considering that he served many years in the military and in high positions for that matter. The defence force monitors the security of the state and of the first citizen. By appointing him to the highest helm, Muluzi showed that he had trust in him. He was appointed not only because he had the necessary academic qualifications but also because of this trust, which is of the highest order. In addition Chimbayo comes from Mangochi and would be easier to sell not to forget the educational qualifications he has. If this dream, which is colouored as of now, turns into reality - and indeed the reality that Mr. Chimbayo becomes president in 2009 will he deliver? Would he still remain “yellow” even though he may have never been? I urge anyone who sees no fog on the playground to consider this history.
Labels: politics in Malawi

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