Many Malawians believe that Atupele Muluzi was personally handpicked by his father, Bakili, to lead the then mighty United Democratic Front (UDF).
Even though, he won the position at the party’s elective convention, it is still believed that such elections were simply a smokescreen prone to massive manipulations.
I personally have no qualms with relatives succeeding each other as long as they are Malawians and the succession plan is free, open and fair. I believe that any Malawian who qualifies for any political position must be accorded an opportunity to exercise such constitutional rights and duties. My usual concern is about the competence, delivery or performance of such individuals.
How has Atupele Muluzi faired as the president of UDF? It is important to note that Atupele Muluzi rose to the position of the President of the Party when his father had messed up the party’s succession plan.
You may recall that the Senior Muluzi dismally failed to change the Malawi Constitution so as to accommodate either third term or open term for presidency. Frustrated and disgruntled, he then handpicked an outsider, Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika, who later won the General elections on a UDF ticket in 2004. After disagreements with Bakili, Bingu dumped UDF and formed his new Party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Therefore, Atupele Muluzi became the President of UDF at a time when the party was kicked out of government and became an opposition party because the newly formed party, DPP, all of a sudden had become the ruling party. As is the norm, massive defections from UDF to DPP followed and UDF was in tatters.
It is against this background that we can start rating the political stamina of Hon. Atupele Muluzi. Truth be told, Atupele failed to bring back the lost glory of UDF and the party continued to harvest few members of Parliament at every general election.
There were probably two reasons that led to the dwindling popularity of UDF during Atupele’s leadership.
First, many party members were still holding the view that UDF was a family party which was previously hugely financed by the Senior Muluzi. Even though Soldier Lucious Banda attempted to challenge Atupele Muluzi for the position of the President of the party at an elective convention, he met a lot of resistance. He later became frustrated and left the party in preference to UTM party. Many DPP gurus followed suit.
Second, Atupele’s interparty policies divided UDF further. Atupele became a cabinet minister under Joyce Banda’s regime. He then resigned from his ministerial position only to join forces with the opposition party , DPP. When DPP won general elections in 2014, Atupele was offered many ministerial positions.
There was indeed an outcry from UDF camp that the UDF – DPP Alliance was benefitting Atupele more than the party. Massive defections followed. On the other hand, Atupele was seen concentrating on his ministerial positions rather than building the party.
Furthermore, the DPP-UDF Alliance weakened the UDF’s stronghold in the Eastern region. UDF consequently lost its parliamentary seats to DPP in Zomba, Balaka, Machinga and Mangochi during general and bye elections.
The epitome of Atupele Muluzi’s dismal descent was in 2019 when he lost elections both as a member of parliament in Machinga and as a presidential candidate. This was a big blow to Atupele’s political career. However, he tried to compensate this gargantuan downfall by being a running mate to Prof. Peter Mutharika during the 2020 fresh presidential elections. Unfortunately, he failed again.
A few months ago, Atupele stunned and disappointed his followers when he abruptly tendered his resignation as the president of UDF. He said that he wanted to concentrate on local and regional business career. I was not convinced with such a lame excuse because Atupele has been running such business enterprises while being active in politics.
What is mind boggling is that after barely a few months, social media is now awash with news that Atupele Muluzi wants to come back into active politics. One wonders if it was worth the effort of resigning if the break was meant for only three months. Reasonably, this does not auger well with Atupele’s political career as it smacks of a dearth of resilient, decisive and predictable leadership.
Despite all these unfortunate pitfalls, Atupele Muluzi is well known for practicing clean politics. Currently, he has no record of being involved in corruption even though ACB has recently interrogated him on his possible involvement on corrupt deals. He also usually doesn’t castigate his political counterparts. He is of calm disposition. Some Tonse Alliance sycophants can now agree with Atupele’s predictions that Chakwera Government would be a total failure as it over-promised the electorate.
Can Atupele Muluzi be a formidable force in 2025? In view of the elucidated background and the adoption of 50+1 electoral system, it will be an uphill for him to mobilise alliances as a torchbearer of a political grouping. The most probable avenue is to be part and parcel of an electoral alliance as he could be most likely a king maker.
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Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are those of the author not necessarily of The Maravi Post or Editor