Do they still call it serendipity? I guess so. While I was setting my mind to appreciate the life and times of Lilian Patel, the United Democratic Front (UDF) president, voila! Some 22 Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members of Parliament have opted for Thyolo Thava legislator Mary Navicha as the Leader of Opposition, to replace Kondwani Nankhumwa.
This should be great news we would all love to hear where women empowerment is concerned. Congratulations are in order and I wish Navicha will see the light of day as the first female Leader of Opposition. This, I say because as I write, Parliament is set to open tomorrow [February 9] but there are just too many twists and turns to the DPP plot to offer an alternative government.
The drama unveiled before our very eyes when both Nankhumwa and George Chaponda made it to the business committee in preparation for this session. Speaker Catherine Gotani-Hara had to ask Chaponda out of the meeting as he had an injunction on his head against his being LoP.
But, Dear Diary, I am not here to address the squabbles in the DPP because they would just divert our attention from the realities of our lives. It is clear that the party is not behaving like an alternative government at all. It’s like hyenas scrambling for the little that is left of the carcass. Are these struggles necessary?
So, the daunting task Navicha faces at the moment is to unify the warring factions in DPP in the House.
In Mangochi South constituency, they call her Che Lilian! That is just to show how much the people respect her as one of the longest-serving parliamentarians.
She first won the seat in 1994, just after Malawians repudiated the one-party State for democracy. She served for two terms, until 2009 when the constituents chose Yusuf Matumula. The constituents voted her back in 2014 and she holds the seat to date.
This is no mean feat, we must admit. Dear Diary, I cannot stand here to speculate why her constituents are so much fond of her for the dynamics could be many. Let us just have it for gospel truth that she is a darling of her people. In her, they see an Iron Lady.
Patel has held several cabinet portfolios, including foreign affairs, women and children’s affairs and labour and vocational training.
In a recent radio interview, Patel announced that she would not contest for the UDF presidency in preparation for the 2025 tripartite elections. Her reason: “I have done my part”.
Before her, Bakili Muluzi and his son Atupele were the leaders of the liberal democratic party.
The interview asked her if she was going into another party, but she said no. Since Bakili approached her to represent the people of Mangochi South, she said, she has always been a UDF member and would remain so until death.
Dear Diary, now that is what we call being principled. That is a rare gem in the muddy waters of Malawi politics that is more of ‘where will my belly get more full’.
It is funny, but today I can point out two party leaders that have rolled the political landscape like nobody’s business. What is most strange is that both Brown Mpinganjira and Uladi Mussa have always fought tooth and nail to join the ruling party.
It is strange that Mpinganjira quit the UDF and formed the National Democratic Alliance before he had stints with the United Party, DPP, PP and, now he is in MCP. Mind you, most of the Malawi political prisoners’ literature hail Mpinganjira as one of the prisoners who were adept in smuggling information into and outside of Mikuyu Prison where he was doing time.
Mussa is a former UDF member, who at some point formed the Maravi Party before he rolled to the DPP and later joined the PP, before returning to DPP. Now he has defected to MCP. Dear Diary, what would you expect of a man who prides himself to be chenji golo?
Now the season of defections is here, as we inch towards 2025. The defections are here and the opportunists are back to their deeds and positioning themselves.
Can’t they learn from Che Lilian that political success is not measured by how many parties you defect to?