DPP presidential race heats up

So far six people have made their interests known likely candidates to contest for the position of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) president at their next elective conference which is somewhere in 2023. 

Six DPP Presidential aspirants pose for a photo with former Head of State Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika who is tje current DPP President 

In this entry, I analyze and assess all the six candidates on the possibility they hold to lead the DPP. 

JOSEPHY MWANAMVEKHA

Josephy Mwanamvekha, one of the experienced DPP loyalists

His credentials say it all. Mwanamvekha made it into Peter Mutharika’s cabinet as his first Minister of Industry and Trade in 2014. He has also warmed the Ministries of Agriculture and Finance under Mutharika. 

Mwanamvekha carries with him vast experience from the banking sector where he went on to become the CEO of the defunct Malawi Savings Bank before being appointed Secretary to Treasury in 2010.

His practical experience in both the private and public sector is what has made him a better politician thus far. Adding on to his calm and collected personality, the people of Chiradzulu South Constituency have enjoyed an extremely rapid increase in social and economic development under his watch as their Member of Parliament.

However, Mwanamvekha lacks the magic wand to win the hearts of many within DPP. Take him out of cabinet, Mwanamvekha seems to be more of a “Chiradzulu South” politician. He can’t relate with structures of the party, no wonder in 2019 they gave him a beating at the party’s elective conference in the hands of Kondwani Nankhumwa for the Vice President (South) position. 

Mwanamvekha has a tall order in convincing the delegates that he is the next big thing after Mutharika, unless he miraculously gets the numbers.

He also has some cases of fraud to deal with that might become issues on the road to the presidency.

Dr. DALITSO KABAMBE

Dr. Dalitso Kabambe (C) has also expressed interest to contest for the party's presidential seat

The former Reserve Bank Governor moved into mainstream politics in December, 2020 and went ahead to declare his interest as one of the DPP presidential hopefuls. Many saw Kabambe as an “imported germ” likely to lead the DPP on its 2025 comeback bid.  

His youthful character, impressive educational and professional background points to a man that can appeal to people on both ends of the society. On a good day, Kabambe stands a chance to becoming Malawi’s next president. His fresh ideas, professional track record as an economist, enhance his chances. 

Kabambe’s miss however is that he is not yet a complete politician. His character is more of an apologetic person and “too good” for a presidential hopeful by all our political measuring standards. Take him to the political podium, you would think he is addressing a religious gathering.

Kabambe must also lean to become a fighter on his own. He must own his battles. Many within the DPP believe he is walloping behind APM so he could get a free ride to the presidency during the convention. His critics also observe that he is adopting enemies naturally since those that are advancing his cause are the same “unpopular” figures whose finger prints are written all over the DPP infighting episodes. 

By the way, Kabambe is from Thyolo, Mutharika from Thyolo, and I can point at some two or three of his top campaigners all from Thyolo, which is another drawback.

His ambitions might as well be scratched with cases of fraud and abuse of office that are hovering over his head…. how he comes out clean from them will surely draw his political career going forward

KONDWANI NANKHUMWA

The Mulanje Central Parliamentarian has held different key Ministerial positions under Mutharika namely Information, Local Government and Agriculture where he performed exceptionally well. 

 Kondwani Nankhumwa has served different key ministerial positions under DPP, and is the current Leader of Opposition in Parliament

In 2017, Mutharika appointed him as Leader of Government business in Parliament replacing George Chaponda after his alleged involvement in the now ended “Maize gate” corruption scandal. As Leader of Government Business, Nankhumwa showed impeccable aptitude in how he performed his role and at one time he made it on the list of those that were earmarked to replace Richard Msowoya as speaker in 2019. 

In 2018, Nankhumwa was elected DPP’s vice president for the southern region drenching the likes of Mwanamvekha and George Chaponda. Nankhumwa has served under APM in his cabinet for Mutharika's entire term and many believed was being groomed as his likely successor. 

Politically, Nankhumwa has the acumen, you give him space at Njamba, Masintha or anywhere in Malawi, he is likely going to pull a crowd unlike the other aspirants who are more confined to their constituencies. He is believed to be man of the people by most of his followers. A fighter, who has been winning most of the battles from his political adversaries proving a point that on the ground KN is well positioned strategically.

However, some quarters believe he is the genesis of the infighting due to what they term his “desperation” for power. He also needs to exarate himself from views that he is towing the MCP line to destabilize DPP. His enemies also enjoy giving him jabs over his educational background which has proved to be an issue on his campaign trail.

Another observation is that KN is slow when it comes to acting on pertinent issues, and his showing as Leader of Opposition in Parliament hasn’t helped in giving an alternative voice to the pleasures of the general populace.

Having said this, some indicators on the ground show that a call for a convention today will surely give KN the numbers as one of the hottest contenders for the top seat. 

BRIGHT MSAKA

Bright Msaka is regarded to have all what it takes to lead DPP

Probably the coolest of them all. Msaka is a gentleman, more of a “black suit” politician… Many believe Msaka has everything that can make him become president. He has the quality in terms of education and professional background as a trained lawyer and a career diplomat who has served in Canada, the UK and other well-known countries in Europe. Msaka is well versed in the operations of government and its systems.

He was Secretary to President and Cabinet during the time of Bingu and was arrested alongside APM as part of the “midnight 6”. He was rewarded with a Ministerial position after the DPP won the Presidential Election in 2014.

In 2018, the Machinga Likwenu legislator was made DPP Vice President for its Eastern political region a position that has given him plenty of time to master the political trade at that top level in the system.

However, Msaka seems to be so much confined to himself. He has that ‘bossy’ altitude that doesn’t give him a true reflection of a ‘man of the people’ accolade. 

Msaka is better off in some office up there than running up and down on some political podiums. Msaka’s presence in the Eastern region, has also failed to bring relevance to the party. Even with the coming in of Atupele Muluzi during the Fresh Presidential poll, Msaka failed to bring some substantive figures to help turning the tables around.

DR. PAUL GADAMA

Dr. Paul Gadama - he can pull a surprise

Others might not fancy him as the next big thing in DPP after Mutharika, but to me, with some good strategy and a rich campaign, Gadama, on a good day can pull a surprise at the DPP convention in 2023.

Taking after his youthful advantage, and fact that his name does not appear anywhere near the list of those that are thought to have been part of the country’s mess during the time of APM, and more recently, the DPP infighting; this alone gives him an advantage that stands to turning the tide to his side. Gadama represents new politics, unity and some air of freshness. 

Unlike the other candidates that seem to have their base in the Southern region, especially the Lomwe Belt, Gadama may use his Kasungu roots to bring flavor on his presidential ambitions and help DPP win some numbers in the central region. 

Since its formation, DPP is mostly grounded in the Southern region, with the Lomwe belt being its stronghold. Over the years, the party has failed to profile itself favorably in the central region, therefore, the coming in of Gadama might to some extent help DPP penetrate the center and shift the political “norm” in the voting pattern.

Gadama has what it takes to attract young voters with his newness appeal, coupled with his sound academic and professional background, he can charm professionals and the corporate world. 

In summary, his name is not stained thus far with any form of alleged criminality, unlike those candidates that are answering cases in court that boarder on fraud, abuse of office and corruption among others.

However, Gadama needs to do a lot of marketing on his political profile so as to make himself a news headliner who can match the likes of Nankhumwa, Mwanamvekha and Msaka. Political branding is the center of modern-day politics where Gadama’s name as a brand should become part of the DPP narrative. 

On this one, he should also be able to initiate and support activities of great impact to the party and where possible take a leading role. He should work on his association with party structures in all regions as he seems to be more confined to the central region.

PROPHET DAVID MBEWE

Prophet David Mbewe - has a tall order to lead DPP

Man of God came into the limelight with his Freedom of Worship Association of Malawi -FOWAM where he was seen congregating with people of different faiths including Rastas and the traditional religious cult at the M’boma shrine.

Founder of the Living Word Evangelistic Church who is popularly known for his Shalom Mount Valley in Machinga, shocked many when he announced his intentions to contest at the DPP convention for the position of president.

On the religious front, Mbewe is humble, has charisma, and has initiated some programs that have seen him interact more with ordinary people. He has also managed to bring together people of different faiths through the FOWAM, and recently in Zomba, some faith leaders asked if he could become Malawi’s next president.

To say the truth, Mbewe has a tall order in convincing DPP followers that he can take after his religious feat and translate it to being shrewd politically. He has followers as a church leader but to think these would automatically follow his political path, that will be making a wrong supposition.

We also are yet to see Mbewe interacting more with DPP structures as most of his shows have been church errands. 

Mbewe has never been in party attire which mean he is not yet DPP, He needs to be taken off or he choose to come out or leave politics and concentrate on his church thing.

In summary, Mbewe is playing his political game without flavor, unless he picks up his game and realize that he can’t use some religious outings to gain him some political support. He must chose to play politics politically, and religion religiously.