I spoke with Hetherwick Ntaba on several issues.
Me: It’s three or four years since the Democratic Progressive Party was born. Where is the party now?
Ntaba: The party has registered tremendous growth way beyond our expectation. We have support throughout the country. We have structures not just the national governing council (NGC) but also regions, districts, down to area level. Some constituencies have 200 area committees.
Me: Have you had the opportunity to tour the party structures yourself?
Ntaba: I have been on the ground. My colleagues have been in various parts of the country and visited various area committees. In fact, even at area committee level, we have names of members, 75 names. My colleagues and I have visited all area structures in the country.
Me: That appears admirable growth, especially because you have names of area committee members. And it is proper that such people should feel to be participating in the party’s affairs by, for example, voting in a convention. When will the DPP hold a convention?
Ntaba: That is a perennial question. Every media person wants to know nothing about the DPP but the convention. We will hold a convention soon, definitely. We will let people know.
Me: There is a lot of talk, disagreements and sometimes quarrelling regarding DPP primary elections. Some talk suggests that some constituencies will not have primary elections.
Ntaba: There will be primaries in every constituency.
Me: Is that so?
Ntaba: Every constituency will have primaries. It is a democratic, a progressive party, you remember? The most democratic and most progressive way of determining who is the people’s choice, who will stand for the people on the DPP ticket, is through the people. Now you are saying there is trouble, quarrelling. I think there is vigorous debate. Where there is a good thing, a lot of people want to be part of it. A lot of people want to contest on the DPP’s ticket.
Me: What is good about the DPP, isn't it that it is a ruling party and most people want to be associated with the party?
Ntaba: That is not all. There are policies, there are achievements under the leadership of the party. People are flocking to the DPP because of the quality of the government.
Me: And how are you going to manage these aspirants? Is this the reason the DPP is asking every aspirant to contribute K50,000?
Ntaba: What we have said is that there will be a participation fee which will be non-refundable.
Me: And how much will that be?
Ntaba: I don’t think I would want to discuss those particular details. But just be informed that there will be a participation fee like the nomination fee when you run for Parliament, just to indicate that a person is a serious contender. Some people will just throw in their names. But there are also many other reasons why people charge participation fees.
Me: Yes, because money is not the only thing to measure a candidate’s seriousness or commitment.
Ntaba: You are right. If there are other ways let us know.
Me: But I am not a DPP member to be advising you. I am a journalist.
Ntaba: You are a human being, you participate, you have observed a lot of political parties and governments that demand a participation fee to be paid. There is nothing strange here.
Me: You have expressed interest to contest for Parliament, isn’t it?
Me: Some people are wondering why a whole chief political advisor to the President and secretary-general of a party should contest for Parliament instead of serving the country in those two positions?
Ntaba: We have ministers, secretaries-general of parties, the president of MCP, contesting. Chairmen of some reputable organisations are contesting. Someone who was vice-chancellor of Mzuzu University has shown interest. Chief executives of some reputable organisations are all running for Parliament. I don’t see why that question should only be put to a secretary general of the DPP.
Me: Specifically in your case, it might be that you are in appointed positions and you are never sure how long you will be in those positions unlike a parliamentary seat which you are assured of a five year job.
Ntaba: Is this the reason you think I am contesting? People are entitled to their opinion. In my case, that is not the reason I am running. I have been an MP in that constituency having won over 90 percent of the vote. I want to serve people the way I did.
Me: But you once lost, how sure are you that you are going to win this time?
Ntaba: You don’t run into a race unless you know you are going to win. I am 100 percent I will win this time because I know why I lost.
Me: If you know why you lost why did you run because you say a person does not go into a race unless they are assured of victory?
Ntaba: I have known now. When a person dies, you do a postmortem to know why the person died because you want to know how to handle a similar case in future. I did a postmortem when I lost and found reasons why I lost and this time I don’t want to repeat those particular shortfalls.
Me: Finally, what is your message to Malawians as voter registration is in progress?
Ntaba: I think it’s important for all Malawians to go and register regardless of their affiliations. There may be some who may [discourage] some from registering because of political, religious and tribal reasons. The President took time to register. That should speak a lot. The registration staff could have gone to State House to register the President. But he went to register himself, a clear indication that this is a serious mater and we all need to take it seriously.