Tonse Alliance leaders have not met for a year to discuss their joint national agenda, fuelling speculations that there could be cracks within the alliance.
Some alliance leaders confirmed in separate interviews that they agreed to meet every two months, but that has not been happening.
Chakwera and Chilima on the campaign trail ahead of the June 23 2020 Fresh Presidential Election
Meanwhile, political analysts say the failure to meet by the alliance partners shows that there are misunderstandings among them.
The alliance leaders last met in June last year in Mangochi where they resolved to be meeting frequently to offer checks and balances in the implementation of their agenda amid a struggling economy, rising unemployment and escalating prices of commodities.
By now, they were supposed to have met five times, with the last meeting expected to have taken place last month.
Freedom Party (FP) leader and former State vice-president Khumbo Kachali confirmed the alliance partners have not met since last year.
Tonse Alliance partners are Malawi Congress Party (MCP), UTM Party, Alliance for Democracy (Aford), FP, People’s Party (PP), Umodzi Party, People’s Transformation Party and People’s Progressive Movement (PPM).
Kachali said: “Since we met in June, we have not met up to this day. What it means is that the President is committed and at an appropriate time, he will invite us.”
Asked if this would not affect the implementation of Tonse Alliance agenda, he said: “It would be healthy to be meeting every two months.”
However, Kachali said they cannot force the meetings since President Lazarus Chakwera and his Vice Saulos Chilima hold the constitutional mandate.
He said: “Our role is to give our input when the President and the Vice-President invite us for discussions. But we cannot go to the President and say this is wrong and this is right. That is not our mandate.”
On his part, Aford president Enock Chihana also confirmed they are not meeting as agreed, but dismissed speculations that it signalled disunity among the alliance partners.
He said they were unable to meet because some alliance partners were busy with other equally important assignments on the days scheduled for the meetings.
Chihana said: “You would find that by the time the President says I am available, two or three other leaders are outside the country. So, why should only three or four people meet? And when you discuss things, others would say we were not there.
“The problem is that we do not have a secretariat to coordinate these things. I would propose that in future there should be a secretariat.”
MCP spokesperson the Reverend Maurice Munthali said he was not mandated to speak on alliance issues while Umodzi Party president John Chisi said he will comment next week.
On his part, PP administrative secretary Ben Chakhame said the party stopped bothering about the alliance.
He said: “As PP, we agreed not to bother whether we are recognised or not. We are only happy that a change of administration gave us space to do our business freely.
“We will soon be busy with recruiting new members to straighten our party from the grassroots as we look forward to the 2025 elections.”
Chakhame added: “Most often the President [Chakwera] mentions Tonse Alliance partners during salutations and with that we believe that we are in an alliance.”
In January, a scheduled meeting was cancelled at the eleventh hour and some partners such as Petra president Kamuzu Chibambo expressed concern with the development and asked that the meeting should be rescheduled as soon as possible. It is now four months.
UTM officials were not available to comment on the matter, but the party’s general secretary Patricia Kaliati was quoted in the media as saying that convening the meetings is at the discretion of President Chakwera, “therefore, we cannot underrate him”.
Meanwhile, Malawi University of Business and Applied Science political analyst Chimwemwe Tsitsi said Tonse Alliance leaders’ failure to meet would negatively affect the implementation of their agenda. This, he further stated, would damage their public image.
He said: “These leaders need to be agreeing on something very concrete and not just about sharing positions and so forth. They should agree on various visions and policies that they have for the country.
“There is a lot of talk to say that perhaps some promises that the Tonse Alliance made were not well thought of considering that maybe their goal was to simply win an election. They might have underestimated the capacity that would be required for them to be able to fulfil the promises.”
On his part, University of Malawi political scientist Mustapha Hussein said failure by the alliance leaders to meet is a sign of misunderstandings in the grouping.