Muluzi, analysts reflect on UDF relevance

Former Malawi leader, Bakili Muluzi who is also first democratically elected president, has fresh memory even in his 80’s. He still recalls the life-threatening path they took to get rid of Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s most repressive and predatory 31-year-one-party regime.

Banda wasn’t one to play with. He had total control over political system. He could dissolve parliament and dismiss his cabinet at will. None dared questioning him. That would have been fatal.

But a wind of change blew in the Southern Africa around 1980. Malawi wasn’t spared. Still, it wasn’t easy. “We started as an underground movement of 17 of us. It was very dangerous. I went to Chichiri Prison for seven times. Others lost lives. But in any struggle, you expect such things to happen,” recalls Muluzi, who later founded United Democratic Front-UDF after these struggles.

On Sunday, May 7 2024, UDF clocked 31 years. Its members will throng St. Now it’s three decades on the political landscape.

In an interview with Our News Platform Mw, UDF spokesperson, Yusuf Mwawa said they are going to rekindle the old memories of the party, how it started and what they stood for. He said they also plan to recognize their departed heroes and those still alive for their contributions in fighting for multiparty democracy.

“The party championed democracy and it is unfortunate that the gains are slowly sliding back and we believe that the UDF is well positioned to defend our hard-won democracy,” said Mwawa.

In his remarks, political scientist, Ernest Thindwa thinks the party has lost its political relevance over the years. He cited lack of intraparty democracy as the main problem. Thindwa argued, this cancer, is in many of the Malawi’s political parties. Why?

“The problem arises when party members are barred from freely choosing leaders of their choice; when candidates are imposed on people. This has over time killed most parties that used to have names. They must learn to give democracy space,” said Thindwa.

Thindwa, who hails UDF for its significant role in championing Malawi democracy alongside Alliance Democracy-AFORD, thinks it wasn’t easy challenging late Kamuzu Banda after his strong grip of dictatorial rule; taking over from the regime change ignited by the Catholic Bishops with their stinging pastoral letters.

Another political analyst with Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences-MUBAS, Chimwemwe Tsitsi concurs with Thindwa and said UDF has to do some serious soul searching to regain its past political glory and significance.

“Not that it’s impossible to achieve but the party must reorganize itself and win back what used to be its strongholds especially in the eastern region. Check now, you will observe that some parties have invaded their bedrooms. That must be some better cause for worry,” explained Tsitsi.

However, Mwawa suggested they haven’t lost the political relevance. He argued: “Political conmen have taken advantage of the low literacy levels of our followers to confuse them with propaganda. For those who are serious about the future of our country know we are the future.”

In an exclusive interview, Muluzi, who retired from active politics but acts as the party’s patron, does not seem to agree too that UDF has lost its political relevance. He almost faults parties that have previously advanced splinter groups from their party and eventually formed their own.

“You know UDF has never lost an election. Those who think like that should go back to 2003 and 2004 when UDF campaigned for late Bingu Wa Mutharika. Bingu dumped later on dumped the party to form his Democratic Progressive Party. From it, we saw the birth of People’s Party, PDP and then UTM. People should not forget such developments,” said Muluzi.

Muluzi pretty understands why the party must do things differently now to attract the attention of people-would be voters. He stresses that UDF must reorganize itself as it clocks 31 years of its existence.

Added Muluzi: “Let’s soldier on, rebuild and reorganize, making the party more attractive to people. The 31 years existence on the political scene must be commended.”

Again, Thindwa thinks the party should go beyond this and demonstrates it still nurses ambitions of governing the country. “Let the party reorganize itself, yes. But it must be providing alternative voices to the current administration instead of being passive on national matters,” tiped Thindwa.

He fears the country’s political parties will remain on the decline if democracy is thrown to dogs with no accommodation of dissenting views especially to party leaderships.

In the past elections, UDF went into electoral marriages with the DPP; a development Tsitsi argues has pushed the former to its decline. He says such an arrangement has worked to the advantage of the DPP which he thinks has made in-roads into the UDF’s widely regarded strongholds

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