UDF squabbles reappear as Atupele Muluzi, Ibrahim Matola rebuff UDF call to quit govt


UDF is heading towards another internal fight after two of its MPs serving in Joyce Banda’s cabinet — Atupele Muluzi and Ibrahim Matola — have rebuffed the party’s call for all its legislators to return to opposition benches in Parliament.

Atupele, who is Minister of Economic Planning and Development (EP&D) and Machinga North East MP, on Tuesday said his interest at the moment is to help the President stabilise the economy; hence, he has no time to advance any political ambitions.

Matola, Mangochi North MP serving as Deputy Minister of Environment and Climate Change Management, said he is contemplating ditching the United Democratic Front (UDF) as he cannot remain in a party which is continuously fighting.

During a news conference in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, on Tuesday where he outlined government’s Economic Recovery Plan (ERP), Atupele said President Banda understands where his passion lies.

“I would not be sitting here today if she would not understand my position. I do not think this is time for political ambitions, but [time to] build the country and move together,” said Atupele when asked on his position regarding UDF’s call and his possible resignation from the Cabinet.

Atupele, son to former president Bakili Muluzi, also said he has “an excellent” working relationship with President Banda and his interest is for Malawi and serving Malawians.

“To me, it is a great honour to serve my country as a minister. We have a huge challenge and oftentimes I have said that the window of opportunity is very small and closes very quickly. We have serious problems in the country and we have to solve them,” he said.

Ironically, until his appointment into Cabinet, Atupele was one of UDF’s hopefuls to lead the party in the 2014 presidential elections. He stirred the nation with his ‘Agenda for Change’ campaign during the late president Bingu wa Mutharika’s leadership earlier this year, but went quiet after his appointment into the People’s Party (PP) regime.

Matola said it is surprising that the decision to move to the opposition in the House has been made before thorough consultations among UDF MPs.

“I am in government and that is it. This country has been in problems and to me, we have been given an opportunity as a party to correct the situation,” he said.

Matola, who until his appointment in April this year was leader of UDF in Parliament, said pulling out of government through Parliament will not help UDF in any way.

The UDF national executive committee (NEC) made the decision on Friday after the party’s Mangochi Central MP Clement Chiwaya, who is also the party’s chief whip in Parliament, presented a report purportedly from other MPs that the party is being overshadowed by the ruling PP.

On Tuesday, Chiwaya refused to comment on the position of his colleagues. He kept accusing the media of trying to fuel divisions in UDF.

UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala said if the two or any other MP will decide to defy the decision, the party will decide on the next course of action.

UDF has been rocked in a leadership wrangle since Bakili Muluzi ceased to be its national chairperson and appointed Friday Jumbe as interim president. Two factions then emerged from the party and recently, there have been efforts to unify the two entities.

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