The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) national governing council (NGC) on Thursday agreed to shift the venue of its convention to be held on 17 April from Lilongwe to Blantyre amid a heated debate over a proposal by some of the members to let interim president Peter Mutharika go unopposed.
One of the NGC members who attended the meeting confided in The Nation that although the meeting in the end agreed on most of the issues, there were initial disagreements over the proposal to let Mutharika go unchallenged.
“Some of those who proposed this argued that to avoid confusion, we should uphold what the party initially agreed by endorsing Mutharika as an automatic candidate for the party. However, this was eventually shot down by most of the members,” said the member.
However, in an interview, party acting secretary general Allan Chiyembekeza said no one made such a proposal, but that some members were just making reference to previous resolutions of the party.
“You know when you are in a meeting, people say a lot of things and also people understand issues differently. What I know is that people were just making reference to the past party resolutions, but were not pushing for that,” he said.
And in an interview soon after the meeting that lasted almost four hours at Wamkulu Palace in Lilongwe, Nicholas Dausi, who is chairperson of the convention organising committee, admitted that the NGC meeting was not a smooth ride although in the end the members agreed on a way forward.
“It was indeed a full house, almost all the NGC members were there. As usual, it was a mixture of debate and tempers could at times rise then simmer down,” said Dausi, but could not go into details on the issues that led to the rising tempers.
Dausi said the convention will be held at Comesa Hall in Malawi’s commercial city of Blantyre.
Apart from the venue, the meeting also approved the proposed K500 000 (about $1 250) nomination fees for those aspiring for the position of party president with those vying for the vice-presidency required to pay K250 000 (about $625).
Mutharika was among the attendees whereas his known challenger, Speaker of National Assembly Henry Chimunthu Banda, was not present as he is reported to be in Namibia on official duty.
The NGC meeting was called to sort out some of the problems that have been troubling the party ahead of its April 17 convention.
Trouble started emerging in the party days after Chimunthu Banda announced that he will run for the party’s presidency amid accusations that a faction loyal to Mutharika was making changes to stifle competition during the convention.
The major issue was the quest to shift the venue from Lilongwe to Blantyre despite an earlier NGC agreement that the convention should be held at the Bingu Conference Centre in Lilongwe and also that only two delegates from each constituency should attend instead of nine as required by the party constitution.
On the delegates, Dausi said the NGC agreed that three members from the constituencies should attend and these will include constituency governors, directors of youth and women from each constituency while each district should have nine delegates and 16 from the regional committees.
He also said all NGC members and the party’s members of Parliament (MPs) will also be delegates.
The NGC also resolved that those aspiring for the position of secretary general should pay K200 000 (about $500) while the position of treasurer general would attract K150 000 (about $375) nomination fees just like that of publicity secretary and organising secretary.
Dausi also said all aspiring for different positions of director will have to pay K100 000 (about $250) while deputies in these positions will pay K50 000 (about $125).