The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Tuesday continued its war of attrition with the Public Affairs Committee (Pac) after it accused the quasi-religious body of lacking credibility and losing direction.
At a press conference at Crown Hotel in Lilongwe Tuesday, various DPP National Governing Council members took turns to haul Pac over the coals for omitting the party from the 5+1 All Inclusive Stakeholders Conference which is starting today at Mount Soche Hotel in Blantyre.
In a highly emotive statement that was read out by DPP vice-president (Central Region) Hetherwick Ntaba, the party laments the fact that Pac made deliberate efforts to sideline DPP and ensure it does not participate in deliberations at the conference.
But the party was defiant and its Secretary General Greselder Jeffrey insisted that it would attend the conference.
“Pac is supposed to promote peace and unity and help President Peter Mutharika to promote transparency and governance in the country. But they sidelined us to be part of the conference,” Jeffrey charged at the press conference.
But in an interview, Pac Executive Director Robert Phiri poured cold water on the allegation, explaining that he had a one-hour meeting with Presidential Adviser on Civil Society Mavuto Bamusi on Monday during which he explained the purpose of the conference and that he had subsequently sent an invitation.
DPP further alleged that Pac has organised 300 residents of Ndirande, Chirimba and Lunzu townships in Blantyre and members of the People’s Land Organisation in Thyolo to break into spontaneous protests while carrying anti-government placards and messages around the hotel.
The party ominously warned Pac not to rekindle the memories of July 2011, when 20 people died as they protested against the government.
“The DPP wishes to caution Pac and its anti-government agents causing anarchy that Pac will be held accountable for any loss of life and property,” the statement reads.
The party also faulted Pac for involving opposition political parties in the planning stages of the conference, and went as far as alleging that the opposition had funded it.
Both claims were, however, disputed by Phiri who said they invited academics in the planning of the conference, which has been funded by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (Osisa).
“In planning, we just involved our board members and others such as representatives from Chancellor College and the civil society in order to come up with the theme. But at no point have opposition political parties been involved,” Phiri said.
Other than Ntaba and Jeffrey, other notables at the press conference included DPP regional governor (Centre) Dean Josiah, Ken Msonda, administrative secretary Francis Mphepo, national director – Legal Charles Mhango, Minister of Transport and Public Infrastructure and DPP Campaign Director Jappie Mhango and Minister of Civic Education and Community Services Cecilia Chazama.
Mphepo faulted Pac for losing direction, behaving like a political party and losing the ethos for which it was established.
“Pac has lost direction and has not given dialogue a chance. President Mutharika wanted to meet them but they pulled out and instead organised this conference. That’s [being] disrespectful to the President,” Mphepo said.
But Phiri defended the organisation’s track-record, observing that it has held in check different government administrations since its establishment in 1992.
On security concerns, Phiri could not reconcile the fact the same Pac that had sought security from the Inspector General of Police could turn and organise people to cause confusion at the conference, adding: “If there is any demonstration by Pac, we would seek permission legally.”
This is not the first time Pac and DPP have been in each other’s crosshairs. In April, Pac issued a statement in which it accused the party of losing direction and failing Malawians but DPP expressed its loss of confidence in the committee for departing “from the very principles of its existence and consistent demonstration of political biases”.