The Chilembwe uprising on postage stamps

Malawi Democratization and Power Struggles

After Bingu wa Mutharika took over the government, there were divisions between the government and the UDF. These were triggered by the criminal prosecution of some high-ranking party officials who were suspected of corruption.

With Mutharika’s exit from the UDF in February 2005 and the founding of his own DPP party, the government had largely forfeited its parliamentary majority and thus also its ability to act. The power struggle between Mutharika and Muluzi, who remained chairman of the UDF and had entered into an informal but powerful opposition alliance with the MCP, dominated the political scene. The extremely rich entrepreneur Muluzi had considerable political weight until the 2009 elections.

Muluzi owed Bingu wa Mutharika’s political rise as a career changer.

The power struggle between the minority government and the opposition took on farcical features at times and had negative effects on the government’s ability to act and thus on the country. The then Vice President Cassim Chilumpha, who had refused to support Mutharika, was to be pushed out of office by all means, but this did not succeed. Politically, however, he was completely sidelined.

In May 2008 – at the height of the controversy over the adoption of the state budget – the former President Bakili Muluzi came under Mutharika’s sights. Obviously constructed coup allegations against Muluzi, which led to his short-term detention, were judged as irrelevant by the competent courts. The case is closed.

With the clear election victory of the DPP in 2009, these problems are a thing of the past. The two-thirds majority of the DPP in parliament, which was comfortably achieved through the accession of most of the 32 elected independents, represented a challenge for democratization because it was misused to weaken the opposition even further and to expand one’s own position of power. The opposition’s severe electoral defeat had also exposed serious distortions in the internal power structure of the MCP and UDF. John Tembo was in dire straits in the MCP when a wing of the MCP parliamentary faction openly refused allegiance to him. Tembo was ultimately elected by his MCP parliamentary group and had thus initially won the party‚Äôs internal power struggle.

In August 2013, the elderly MCP chairman John Tembo’s political career came to an abrupt end. On August 10, 2013, the party congress refused to change the party statutes in order to allow Tembo another term of office. As a result, the political newcomer Lazarus Chakwera, pastor and former chairman of the Assemblies of God Church, was elected with 44% of the delegate votes against 8 other candidates. The MCP, rich in tradition but politically burdened from the authoritarian Banda period, has thus made a new start in terms of personnel in a democratic way. However, the important position of opposition leader in parliament remained with Tembo until May 2014, as Chakwera was not a member of parliament. Chakwera’s position as party leader seems increasingly to be within the partyTo meet resistance from veteran party cadres who see themselves increasingly disempowered.

With Bakili Muluzi’s resignation from the chairmanship of the UDF and his associated withdrawal from daily politics on December 23, 2009, the way was clear for a broad renewal of personnel in the former ruling party. The National Executive Committee elected former Treasury Secretary Friday Jumbe as acting chairman. In January 2011 there was a de facto split in the UDF leadership. A parliamentary group of the National Executive Committee elected former minister George Mtafu as party leader, while the wing around interim chairman Jumbe elected former vice president Cassim Chilumpha as chairman. All 15 UDF MPs, meanwhile, spoke out in favor of Mtafu. At the end of October 2012 the power struggle in the UDF was decided. Atupele Muluzi, the son of the former president, was elected party leader by 98.9% of the delegates. Two opposing candidates had no chance after ambitious party leaders such as Friday Jumbe and George Mtafu left the UDF in a dispute. Atupele Muluzi had been an MP since 2004. He was trained as a lawyer in Great Britain. There are still legal proceedings against ex-President Muluzipending on suspicion of corruption, which started in March 2011, but has not been vigorously pursued after retiring from politics due to his unstable health. The main negotiation started again in April 2016. A dismissal request with reference to the allegedly constitutional reversal of the burden of proof (the accused must prove his innocence) was rejected by the Supreme Court in February 2018. Muluzi regularly goes to South Africa for medical treatment. Meanwhile, the evidence against the former head of state seems rather weak.

The then ruling party DPP was shaken in December 2010 by the expulsion of Vice-President Joyce Banda. She was accused of behavior that was harmful to the party. In early 2011, she founded a new party, the People’s Party (PP), which initially had problems registering. With this step, the relationship between Mutharika and his deputy had cooled significantly.

In the run-up to the presidential and parliamentary elections due in May 2019, tensions arose within the ruling DPP party from May 2018. It was proposed by the current President’s sister-in-law, Callista Mutharika (widow of the late President Bingu wa Mutharika), instead of Peter Mutharika, to run Vice-President Saulos Chilima as the presidential candidate in the next elections, as he is significantly younger and more agile than the incumbent. This led to upheavals within the DPP. First, Chilima had not expressed publicly his plans, but then on 6 June 2018 his retreat announced from the DPP. However, he continued to hold the vice-president’s office until the end of the legislative period. Against his will, he could only have lost his position through impeachment proceedings. The constitutional hurdles would have been too high for that.

According to dentistrymyth, Malawi is still in the process of democratization and is still some way away from consolidation. In the 2019 Corruption Perception Index from Transparency International, Malawi ranks 31st in 123rd place (out of 180), slightly worse than in the previous year (32nd, 120th out of 180). Malawi ranks well behind Botswana, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia in southern Africa, but better than Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe and DR Congo. This is also due to the Cash Gate scandal (see below). The corruption in Malawi is not endemic, especially in government procurement and the fertilizer subsidy widespread. TheAnti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is formally independent and has also – in some cases successfully – investigated suspects in the respective government circles. Better financial and human resources seem to be urgently needed to increase the efficiency of the institution.

The Chilembwe uprising on postage stamps

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