UDF publicity secretary Sam Mpasu has been at loggerheads with his party as he has been accused of airing his views, most of the time, not necessarily of the party, Malawi News reporter Rex Chikoko met Mpasu sought his views on his party’s stand against him: Excerpt:
You have saying that there in no democracy in UDF would you elaborate on that statement?
I have not actually put it in so many words but the people who have published a notice, an advertisement in the Daily Times calling themselves members of the UDF taskforce have raised that issue especially in relations to the forth coming convention and I have looked at it not on the basis of the messenger but on the basis of the message. I think the earlier we realize as members of the UDF that Malawians has very expectations from the UDF than from any other party, the better. Say this because they UDF boosts about and take credit for having brought democracy in the country and that it is a party of democracy. Democracy has got two attributes; the availability of choice and the availability of voice. People are used to be given a choice; people are used to be given a voice, so people expect the UDF of the 1992-93s to continue being a part of the people, where people were free to choose freely. So when these Task Force people made that arrangement, I was stunned when some of my colleagues said they were not members of the UDF, said no that is a mistake, we should look at the message not the messenger, even the statement had come from nonmembers we have taken them into account.
Your sentiments have put you in a collision course and you are not also contradicting your party’s National Chairman Bakili Muluzi position on this issue, what would you say now?
This is exactly what I am saying that it is a mistake for us to look at the messenger not at the message, that statement I made, made some of them into believing that actually I am a sympathizer or a secret supporter of the task force and I beg to differ I salute my principle. It is a disastrous mistake for UDF into believing that it should be taking criticisms from its only elected officials, only from its members because when the elections come, we should realize that not only our members would put us into government, it is members of the electorate who were not necessary UDF who can put us into government by voting for us.
What was the agenda of the UDF meeting which the issue of your possible suspension was discussed?
Basically there was nothing concerning me on the agenda, but I was very surprised that the chairman of the media committee, Mr Joseph Kubwalo, said he was to give a report on media committee and suddenly the report he gave was that his was failing to do its work because every time they want to discuss something they find that it was already in the media so he asked the committee to help him to find a solution and then I found myself to be at the centre of discussion. I thought it was ridiculous, that statement was based on ignorance because the work of the spokesperson is different to the work of the media committee. A spokesperson does not raise his own questions, he answer the questions on the spot, he must be quick in his head and on his feet, where as a media committee person is the one who sets the agenda, they would say look; lets go and shoot holes into the economic policies, shoot holes into Bingu political policies, shoot holes into the food security policies, so you prepare press statements or press conference, there you got plenty of time to consult. I do not think it is possible that I get a call from a reporter and all please can you phone me in two weeks time I want to consult my colleagues. This is total ignorance.
It was said that your fate will be known once the National Chairman is back from United Kingdom, have you been communicated to now that the National Chairman is back?
They did not say that. They said they would make a recommendation to the National Executive Committee, so my fate would known when the National Executive Committee meet.
Bakili Muluzi alluded to the effect that the Task Force is the work of government, what would be your take on this statement?
The statement, unfortunately is focusing on the messenger not the message, I do not thing it should really matter who is saying what, what it should matter is what is being said and in this respect I am glad that the party responded to the message by saying ‘sorry the fielding of presidential candidate is limited to the national chairman anyone else wants to compete should be free to do so’ this is the message they would have said long time ago, we seem to waste time in looking at who is saying what, what we should look at is; is that relevant to our situation.
There were about four members Friday Jumbe, Brown Mpinganjira Cassim Chilumpha and yourself who shown interest to contest as presidential candidates, with the above statement are not contesting?
First of all I must remind you that UDF party in this country that it establish its credentials as a party of democracy and millions of Malawians in the rural areas believes that they are not free to move about, free to worship, free to write what they want, free to do any business because of the UDF, so the principle of democracy is a pillar of the UDF, that any time Malawians should expect UDF to remain a pillar of democracy, they don’t expect that from other parties, they expect democracy from UDF. So the public has been making a serous mistake into believing that there were only four people who were aspiring to be presidential candidates to the UDF, there are many more who would like to try, it is their rights, if for Dr Muluzi express interest to contest again, where were over 10 I could count on my figure tips, we had honorable [Moses] Dossi, Dr [George Nga] Ntafu and many others, so it is a mistake to believe there were just four who would like to try to exercise their rights. The point is, it is not just the right but will they have democratic environment within the UDF, are they going to be able to chat up the district governors, the regional governors because if you are to contest on that position you need to campaign.
Are you contesting?
Not necessary, I have said the issue of presidential candidature is a matter an individual ought to make his own mind.
The meeting took place when Muluzi was not around and in most cases Chilumpha become the acting national Chairman, was he consulted when the meeting was taking place?
Dr Chilumpha is not the vice chairman of UDF and was not consulted on the fate of my position as the publicity secretary and he did not attend the meeting that was discussing me. If you remember, for over three years not UDF has been handcapped in the sense that the position of the vice national chairman, who should come from the central region, has been vacant, the second vice national chairman, who should come from the north has been vacant, so here is a situation where only Dr Muluzi is at the top of the party and is not been helped by the two key people, and we are going into a convention, the convention is raising many other issues which threatens to make the convention not a smooth one but a bumpy one and we can not afford that with only 14 months to go to elections. On 20 March 2009 parliament will be dissolved automatically there after every party will be on its own, we can not afford to be divided now.
Talking of division, is UDF divided are there two camps in the party?
I would not say it is the question of two camps or three or whether the party is divided or not but what we are saying is that we in UDF we have got certain values we hold, a kind of a party we want to see, a kind of a political party we want to develop and win the confidence of Malawians, if we get a situation where someone says you belong Chilumpha’s camp, or you belong to Muluzi camp, or to Mpasu, Mpinganijra or Jumbe’s camp that is a disaster, there should not be any camps. If any one is interested, let them be interested but don’t divide the party into camps, our members see themselves as UDF first not belonging to this camp or that camp.
When is the party holding its convention?
A decision has not been made, we were waiting for the national executive committee to meet and decision would be made now that the national chairman has come back from Britain.