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Tuesday, 20 February, 2001, 16:05 GMT
Malawi tycoon leaves ruling party
Brown Mpinganjira
Brown Mpinganjira's NDA is steadily gaining ground
By Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre

A millionaire business magnate who was until Monday a member of parliament for Malawi's ruling United Democratic Front (UDF), has resigned from the party.

I refuse to be part and parcel of the dictatorship and mismanagement of the UDF government

James Makhumula
In a hard hitting statement issued in the commercial capital Blantyre, James Makhumula said he was quitting the UDF to join sacked former senior minister Brown Mpinganjira's National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Mr Makhumula, who was the main financier of the ruling party in its formative years, said he was quitting because the party had abandoned its original virtues.

He said the UDF was sponsoring violence against its opponents and plundering the economy through corruption and fraud.

The UDF secretary-general responded that the party had an open-door policy and that Mr Makhumula could leave if he wished.

'Creeping dictatorship'

Mr Makhumula said that several allegations of corruption against ministers had not been investigated.

James Makhumula
James Makhumula: The UDF has abandoned its original virtues
"These have not been brought before the law because those involved are at the highest level of government," he said.

He added that dictatorship was gradually creeping into Malawi with the UDF's intolerance of diverse political views and lukewarm response to corruption.

"I refuse to be part and parcel of the dictatorship and mismanagement of the UDF government," he said.

"This is not what we fought for and this is not what we agreed in 1994."

Ruling party 'shaken'

The UDF politburo is putting on a brave face by responding dismissively to Makhumula's resignation.

President Muluzi
President Muluzi plans a purge of opposition supporters
"President Muluzi has always been saying the UDF has an open-door policy where those who wish to leave should do so while those who wish to join should join," Secretary general Willie Katenga Kaunda said.

But political analysts say the ruling party must be shaken that Mr Mpinganjira's NDA is steadily gaining ground, especially in the UDF's populous southern stronghold.

Mr Makhumula used to pick up the tab on most expenses of the UDF, which was an undercover pressure group before it become a political party.

Growing exodus

President Bakili Muluzi gave him a ministerial post but, according to reports, he soon asked to step down because he was wasting valuable time for a meagre ministerial salary.

Mr Makhumula joins the growing number of independent MPs in Malawi's 193-member parliament who have quit the ruling party since the NDA was formed in January.

Local media in Malawi say Mr Mpinganjira has support among many UDF MPs, including at least six ministers, who are expected to join the NDA when it is officially launched.

Meanwhile, government sources say President Muluzi is planning a major cabinet reshuffle to rid his cabinet of known or perceived Mpinganjira sympathisers.

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See also:

06 Nov 00 | Africa
Heads roll in Malawi cabinet
29 Dec 00 | Africa
Malawi minister freed on bail
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