Atupele overstayed his welcome in Malawi’s politics


The United Democratic Front (UDF) woke up on Sunday with a new leader without following the resignation of its President Atupele Muluzi.

Atupele’s sudden exit from active politics has surprised many Malawians considering the that Atupele was destined to continue the Muluzi political dynasty as the once powerful ‘’people’s movement” was reduced into a family property.

But this should not surprise much, the truth is that the young Muluzi was pursuing an impossible dream. Atu, as is popularly known, inherited a party on decline and out of touch with most Malawians. Malawians refused to be the enablers of the Muluzi’s dynasty. They could not fathom of the idea of seeing another Muluzi in the state considering Bakili Muluzi’s corrupt legacy.

When Bingu Wa Mutharika ditched the UDF and formed his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 2005 some people speculated that Bingu left the (UDF) because he did not want to honour the agreement he had with his predecessor that handpicked him to be the UDF torch bearer against the top establishments. It was rumoured that Bingu was only chosen only to warm the seat for Muluzi’s son who had not attained the age of 35 to contest for the presidency as required by Malawian law.

Atupele Muluzi

Like the death of Adolf Hitler, this has remained one of those many rumours regarding their acrimonious end. But looking back, this speculation is growing credible enough to down play. In 20014 Bingu would have finished his ten-year tenure in office and Atupele would have not only been of age for the presidency but wound have also accumulated some experience as his entry unto politics coincided with the ascendency of Bingu to the presidency in 2004. The Young Muluzi went on to become a three-time legislature of Machinga South East constituency the same year (2004). But Bingu had other ideas, he did not want to become Muluzi’s puppet.

Was it surprising that pursuant to that grand scheme, the senior Muluzi staged another come back on the ballot in 2009 elections in the name of trying to deflate the tyre he inflated, meaning he wanted to oust Bingu Wa Mutharika he helped to become the state President. I hope memories are still fresh of Atcheya when the High Court ruled that he cannot feature again on the ballot having served two conservative terms from 1994 to 2004. When the court was making the determination, the UDF had no plan for eventualities in case his candidature was denied, as a result he forced the UDF to partner with MCP a mission that failed miserably. Mukuzi in his to push Mutharika out of power, he forced his long-term rival John Tembo to partner Brown Minganjira as his running mate.

For years, the old Muluzi fought anyone standing in the way of his son’s presidency in the UDF. When Bakili Muluzi retired from politics he handed over the leadership to Friday Jumbe who was his Finance Minister but before long the faction emerged in the party, the other faction was vouching for Atupele, with the party’s Secretary General drumming support for the young Muluzi. Addressing the press conference in Blantyre on Tuesday 10 January 2012, Jumbe, the embattled acting President intimated that the division in the party at that time was precipitated by the former president with the aiming of imposing his son.
‘’Bakili Muluzi’s hand is now no longer invisible in all mechanization to bring disorder in the party. Muluzi had wanted to stay in power that’s why he brought an outsider Bingu Wa Mutharika when the third term failed and when his come back failed too he is bringing his son Atupele. This is an indication of a greedy leader who do not want to see others take over power,” Jumbe was quoted in Nyasatimes edition of 10 January 2012
With the help of his father the young Muluzi prevailed and he was made the party president at the 2013 party convention. In 2018 he was again endorsed as the 2019 presidential candidate.

However, Atupele had a difficult job ahead because as of 2013 this party which enjoyed national appeal and had the strongest base in the Southern and Eastern Regions was reduced into a two districts entity. The DPP took control of the entire Southern region and made the once mighty UDF strong hold its hunting ground. When Atupele was made the president in 2013 he found the party with 24 members of parliament. He has exited the political stage with only 10 legislatures having lost the presidential elections in 2014 and 2019 elections with well over 700 000 votes and 235 000 votes respectively and losing his seat in the process.

The UDF has been dying, the old Muluzi being the architect of its demise. In what others could describe as the tragic fall, the parity’s downward spiral started with the third term. When the third term was foiled Bakili Muluzi became bitter with the party’s establishments’ such that he opted for an outsider, Bingu to be his successor overlooking the party stewards like Justin Malewezi, Aleke Banda, Cassim Chilumpha, Sam Mpasu, George Nga Mtafu whom he demeaned publicly by calling them madeya (political midgets). Subsequently these people broke ranks with Muluzi. Malewezi his partner for ten year went on to stand as an independent presidential candidate in the 2009 elections and Aleke Banda became the president of People’s Progressive Movement (PPM).

Perhaps the young Muluzi understand that he has overstayed his welcome on the political scene so he has to stay away from it. Sadly he left a fractured party in the hands of a woman.
Lilian Patel’s ascendancy to the leadership of the yellow party is understandable being the most senior member of the party. Mrs Patel has been with the party through thick and thin. But as impeccable as her personality may seem, her choice as an interim leader is an expression of something unsaid from the Muluzi’s. Mrs Patel is very close to the Muluzi’s and it is no brainer that the Muluzi’s are sticking around. Like the ghost, their picture will continue to loom large in her time as the party leader.

If not for Muluzi’s manipulative politics, one would be tempted to believe that finally the new dawn has arrived in the UDF, but knowing Muluzi’s politics surely, he is up for no good and he is scheming for something. She may just be there to keep the position safe for the second return of the crowned Prince.