Lazarus Chakwera
Dr Lazarus Chakwera – Leader of MCP and Opposition in Parliament

Dear Mr President,

I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour whom we both profess to believe in. I have agonised over a proper response to the recent events that have happened and continue to happen in the Malawi Congress Party. I have thus after careful consideration decided to write to you. I could have, and I am hopeful that I will be able, in the not too distant future, to discuss the issues that I am raising here, one on one, in person with you. But I have chosen to first put the issues in writing, not only for the record and posterity, but also so that I am able to guard against (obvious) misrepresentation, when word filters through to the rest of the members of our dear party.

I am aware that there are those that will say that by writing to you in this fashion I am just playing into the hands of our detractors and joining the bandwagon of those that have openly criticised your leadership style. I will quickly be categorised as a rebel, Anti-Chakwera, kapilikoni or nkholokolo the sad terms which have now become the language of some party zealots. Actually my writing will confirm the theory of the conspiracy theorists that my sympathies have been with people that are against you or that I have even been behind the recent turmoil in the party. Those that have taken it as their job description to abuse and defame your opponents in the social media will go full throttle attacking me. Other people will ask why air our dirty laundry in this fashion when we can do this in private precincts of our offices. Sadly, there comes a time when what needs to be said must be said, regardless of the consequences, and to me this is one such time. I therefore do not care what my critics will say as I have only my conscience and my God to answer to.

I am convinced that some of the issues that have bedevilled the party could have easily been resolved, if an enabling atmosphere, where reason and logic were allowed to over-ride emotions and blind loyalty existed. I am sorry to say that the recent decisions made by “NEC” have demonstrated that the space and atmosphere where people can freely express their frustrations and offer solutions is lacking in the party. People with contrary views are not given space but are rather being viewed as desperados.

Secondly I am only too conscious that I was not elected at a Convention but that I was nominated and confirmed by NEC after the resignation of the elected Secretary General. My legitimacy as Secretary General before a convention is called to ratify or rescind the NEC decision does not come into question. To other people however, I have no legitimacy to be critical of the elected leadership. I would utterly disagree with those that feel I must continue to be silent on the issues that affect the party. I accepted the nomination to be Secretary General of MCP with a conviction that I would add value to the noble goal of transforming and rebranding the party into a force to reckon with in the multiparty dispensation. I am convinced that I am duty bound to exploit any democratic space available to advance that cause, which I believe you my president also share and hold dear to your heart. I ask therefore that you go through this letter in that spirit of good faith.

The ill fated NEC Meeting

I spoke to you last on Monday 5 September when you called me. You asked me if I had heard of the court ruling delivered by Justice Mkandawire and I told you I had not, but had seen a post on whatsApp. You said you had just been briefed about it yourself. You then requested me to give a report on the state of the party at the NEC meeting scheduled for 7th September 2016. You went on to state that you expected the Treasurer General to similarly give a report on the state of finances of the party. I assured you that I would give the report.

In preparation for the meeting I duly compiled the minutes of the last “NEC” and sent them to your secretary.

On the day of the meeting I arrived in at Party headquarters where there was a large contingent of MCP youth. I went into my office at about 8:30 am. I worked on my presentation till about 9:15am when I left my office to come and see you. As Secretary General and a secretary to the meeting, I have as a matter of normal practice consulted you Page | 3 as Chair of the meeting on how the meeting should be conducted. This is the reason that I intended to come and see you, just before going to the NEC meeting. On all previous occasions I have had access to you without let or hindrance. Sadly on this day your security person Phakamisa who was in the company of about four MCP youth, told me that I was not allowed to come into your office and see you. He told me to leave my office and go straight to the NEC meeting. From the way he spoke to me, it was abundantly clear that he was under instructions to do so. I was pleasantly surprised because at the time Phakamisa was confronting me Hon. Kamata was just coming out of your secretary’s office. I found Phakamisa’s conduct to be not only rude but demeaning as well. I therefore decided there and then to just leave the premises as I was not sure on what basis the decision that I should not see you was made.

Think about this any way you can, the reason for my being barred from seeing you was not security related. I was not armed in any way and if anyone thought that, after all the sacrifices I have made for you personally and the Party in general, I was a security threat, I could have been searched.

Before I left, I talked to Hon Shela and Hon. Lombola and explained to them why I was leaving. I asked both of them to inform you should you ask about my whereabouts. On this, Mr. President, there are a number of scenarios that I was toying with. If the security person was overzealous and acted without instructions from you, then you were being held hostage or had no control over who had access to your office. If you gave the instructions that I should not see you, then that was cowardly. The third scenario is that when you did not see me at the so called NEC meeting you or your secretary could have reached out to find out what had happened by telephoning me. You have not done so up to the time that I am writing this letter. I am aware that you have stated elsewhere that I should have been the one calling you. I am sorry that I did not do that and could not do that in the face of direct confrontation by your security personnel. I was going to suffer double humiliation if you confirmed the instructions that I should not meet you and I would have held you in contempt if in your response you indicated that your security personnel wielded such power that they could prevent access to you by your Secretary General without your knowledge. Either way therefore ignorance was bliss.

I learnt with great sadness that at the commencement of the “NEC” meeting you enquired about my whereabouts. To the best of my information you did not get any plausible response to your enquiry. If the enquiry you made was genuine then the gravity of the situation that you find yourself in, is as alarming as it is treacherous. It demonstrates as I have stated above that you are the one being held hostage. Your captors were intent not in preventing me from seeing you, but preventing you as their hostage, from receiving me as your guest. Mr President has your situation become that desperate? What ransom do your Captors require for us to obtain your liberty?

My random thoughts

Permit me now, that I am at it, to share with you some random thoughts that I have been considering since that sad incident. I may have shared some of them with you on previous occasions.

  1. Lost opportunity

Although my views of the NEC meeting of 7th September 2016 will become very clear in the body of this letter I welcomed the meeting as forum to address the many opportunities (appearing in the form of challenges) that the party has been experiencing in the recent past. I was hoping that as President your approach at the beginning and throughout the “NEC” meeting should have been conciliatory, if not even apologetic (owning the mess and embarrassment that the party has been dragged through) with the goal of empowering the NEC Members to speak without fear of being branded rebels or anything.

If that particular NEC meeting were to be the success which it should have been, it should not have been used as a praise-singing forum or indeed a forum to castigate people perceived to be in disagreement with you. By coming up with the resolutions to dismiss and suspend some members, a golden opportunity to strengthen our party was lost.

  1. The composition and ratification of NEC

The list of the reconstituted NEC was sent to me by you and VP Richard Msowoya during your trip to China. I raised with you my concerns regarding changes to positions that had been elected at the convention. You assured me that you had spoken to the concerned elected members and it was fine for me to make the announcements. I did at the Top Management meeting on 20th January 2016 prior to the Management and NEC meetings advise that as a matter of procedure, and in my view legally, the reconstituted NEC could not ratify its composition by itself. My advice was that we call the NEC as constituted following the 2013 Convention and that, that NEC should ratify the reconstituted NEC, only thereafter could the new reconstituted NEC be called. My advice was not heeded. As a consequence of which we have a NEC that was reconstituted and that itself ratified the decision for its reconstitution. Hence my reference to it as “NEC”.

If I may add, as I understand it, you had the mandate of the 2013 Convention to fill NEC positions. That was delegated authority. Having fulfilled that mandate you were duty bound to report to the body that gave you that authority i.e the 2013 Convention how you had exercised the delegated authority. It is not right in my submission to proceed to change the composition of NEC and of the delegates to that convention on the ostensible pretext of conducting elections. Should a convention be called to ratify any recent decisions, it is my Page considered view, that the proper delegates would be those that attended the 2013 convention.


  • Breach of the rules of natural justice

My President, as you very well know, democracy entails inherent competition of ideas, best ideas prevail and these are the ideas that bring political change. Great democratic leaders are those that embrace this competition of ideas, harness it and channel it to bring positive energy in the political establishment. Our great party, the Malawi Congress Party is often judged harshly because it failed on this basic democratic principle, it was stifling democratic competition of alternative ideas. This is the legacy that you, Mr. President, volunteered to change and all your subordinates under your leadership should be united in order to bring this transformation of the party – hence the rebranding that you have been championing. You are also aware Mr. President that while democracy embraces free competition and expression of ideas, it does not promote anarchy, indiscipline or impunity. Democracy allows for decisive action against any such destructive elements. The superiority of democracy however is that it does allow taking such decisive actions, even punitive measures or sanctions after observing rules of natural justice. The basic rule in our case being the audi alteram partem rule – hearing both sides of the case – (or a right for the accused to be heard) – before making any decisions affecting them. The other rule of natural justice is Nemo judex in causa sua -Not to be a Judge in your own cause. If the suspended people were being accused of plotting to close off or burn your office, you were ill placed to be Judge or Chair of any meeting that was to pass a decision on that matter. Thus on both scores “NEC” failed to adhere to principles of natural justice.

  1. Image and rebranding of the Party

Mr. President, in the effort of rebranding our party as championed by your good self, we have to strive to do things differently. Should people desire to compare us with the past, they should only do so in the positive light. Unfortunately, Mr. President, the recent decision by “NEC” fails on that test. Some people are comparing us with the intolerant MCP of the past. You may wish to recall in the recent past, the challenges that Hon. JZU Tembo faced from the likes of late Hon. Chafukila, the Ted Kalebes etc, even his own Secretary General, Hon. Chris Daza. The party showed restraint, and even allowed Hon. Daza to remain in office until the convention. This is the level of tolerance that is expected of a party that intends to divorce itself from its ugly past. Because of the gravity of our dented past, perceived or otherwise, we have to go an extra mile, even beyond the call of our duty to show the people out there that indeed we are a changed and transformed party. We cannot be democrats by day and autocrats by night. In my view, Mr. President, we should have challenged the people that have been dismissed and suspended to a round table. We should have created a secure and safe space to engage in contact and dialogue. I am not oblivious to the fact that efforts were tried to this end, but as I have said earlier on, given our past, and the duty we have to transform and rebrand, we should have gone an extra mile to bend backwards towards engagement.

Besides Mr. President, three of the affected are members of parliament. Can the MCP afford to lose sitting MPs years before the next election? Is the Party happy to let these MPs to be free agents that can be courted by other parties? The present decision, if not corrected would mean “donating” three MPs to the forces that we as a Party should be fighting. This further weakens our position in Parliament. Somehow we are losing some of the best people among us. These challenges, Mr. President are your opportunities not only to rebrand the party, but to present yourself as a leader with a difference, and hope for our country. You do not want to be associated with any traits of excesses of the past.

  1. Finality of the interim decision

I learnt with a sense of shock, that coupled with the decision to dismiss and suspend the senior party members, was the decision for the dismissed and suspended members to cease using party personnel, structures and MCP colours. That may be acceptable after due hearing and a verdict of guilty but to issue such a directive at the suspension stage appears to me like pre-trial punishment and ought not to be tolerated.

  1. Suspension of the First Deputy Secretary General

I was dismayed by the decision made to suspend the elected First Deputy Secretary General. As I was not privy to the deliberations of the meeting that made the decision I can only hope that his offence was serious and comment on the procedure. DSG is the one the highest positions in the party he cannot and should not be suspended without due process. Are you confident that NEC has the mandate to suspend a member elected by the convention? Do you realise Mr President that with the suspension of the DSG only you and the two vice Presidents, are the only elected people left in “NEC”? Are you happy that this state of affairs should continue? Do you not think that there are issues of legitimacy of “NEC” as presently composed?

  • Selective memory and enforcement of disciplinary procedures

Not long ago we had a case where senior party officials were assaulted by Regional Party officials in the Sothern Region at Chichiri. For a period of about three months no action was taken. When it came to action being taken I was mandated to write to and suspend the members concerned. That decision was resisted by the Regional Chairman and the members concerned. No one in the Top Management came out forcefully to support the collective decision we made. You Mr President and some Senior NEC members have since that incident been working with the same suspended members. I am made to understand that the suspension has been lifted by “NEC” because six months have elapsed since the suspension. Really? When was the suspension actually served? In fact, my reading of the MCP Page Constitution is that the automatic reinstatement is only triggered if an appeal is lodged to the party convention and the convention is not called to decide the issue up to six months.

Now we have this convoluted case of the intended arson of the party Headquarters which as a former Police and Intelligence Officer I find fantastic! Arsonists going to commit the crime in broad day light? With just a gallon of petrol? The story that I heard the other day, that the petrol was in fact bought because party functionaries wanted to burn these villains makes more sense than the one being propagated. But that is my personal view and I could be totally wrong.

Every Lawyer however will confirm that the evidence of an accomplice is not accepted as evidence to prove a fact unless it is corroborated. I find it sad that decisions as momentous as the expulsion and suspension of very Senior Party members were based on uncorroborated evidence of accomplices. I am also not sure whether an enquiry was seriously made as to how those confessions were obtained? Were they voluntary or made by the culprits after being assaulted? All this simply goes to confirm my conviction that more investigations should have been undertaken before the suspensions. This also does not answer the question as to why these people are being treated differently from the members who assaulted people in the southern region. Are verbal attacks, or attempted crimes worse than actual crimes?

  • The worst kept secret

You are aware that there are party officials that are working with Hon. Sidik Mia. There is talk of parallel structures being established in readiness for his coming to the Party. I have no problem whatsoever welcoming Hon Sidik Mia and working with him in the party. He just needs to join openly and work with us openly. The current working relationship with him is causing confusion and leaving people wondering as to who is fooling who?

  1. The Court cases and treatment of Plaintiffs

I have in the past said there is a legal and political solution to the court issues that are currently being pursued. The legal route is being pursued vigorously but the political route is being neglected. I did discuss with you on my return from Zimbabwe last year the wisdom of holding an early convention so that adequate time is spared for preparation for elections. While I am not in support of the path taken by the District Chairmen and I have made my position clear, I do think there is merit in not leaving a convention too close to the election. The recent one-day notice for District elections in districts essentially consisting of DCs perceived to be supporting the case in court was in my view disgraceful. I would seriously urge caution as at the moment the elections are viewed more as a purge than a strategy to strengthen the structures of the Party.


Mr President the current situation may appear desperate and indeed to some beyond rescue, I am however confident that if you do the right thing we can come out of the present situation stronger. For reasons cited above I am of the considered view that the recent “NEC” decisions are wrong and untenable at law. The same should be reversed. I propose that you take immediate steps to correct the situation by doing the following

  1. a) urgently calling for a NEC meeting comprising of NEC members that held positions prior to 27 August 2015 to ratify the expansion and filling in of positions as stated in my communique of 27 August 2015
  2. b) you reverse or call for a properly constituted NEC to reverse the illegal dismissals and suspensions from the party. NEC should reverse or overturn the results of the elections that were conducted without adequate notice and/or mandate
  3. c) you create a neutral forum for identifying and prioritising issues currently facing the party to which party members with perceived dissenting views will be invited.
  4. d) you identify ways of getting the entire membership of MCP to own decisions that have recently been made. Calling for a convention now may not, in my view be a sign of weakness but rather a show of strength and democratic accountability.


As we in the MCP continue in our internal squabbles and power jostling the plight of Malawians continues be desperate. The security, food, education, utilities and economic well being of Malawians have deteriorated to such levels that citizens out there are surprised that we in the MCP can find time to concentrate on anything else other than these pertinent issues.

Speaking for myself in spite of all that has happened and everything that I have stated in this letter my resolve to serve Malawians through the Malawi Congress Party with your support, if possible and without it if necessary, remains steadfast. I still believe that we can salvage the situation, if we work together, put our country and the party above our personal ambitions, foster unity, bite the bullet and do the right thing that puts the MCP in the positive light and renews the trust of Malawians that it can be trusted with governing this country in their best interest.

I hope as I stated at the beginning that you will take my observations positively and I sincerely wait to hear from you on how we can make progress going forward.

I remain, Sir,

Yours respectfully,

Gustave Glory Kaliwo


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