Political Journey Of APM’s Runningmate Atupele Muluzi

By Focus Maganga

File Photo: DPP-UDF runningmate Atupele Muluzi addressing a rally

The United Democratic Front (UDF) president, Atupele Muluzi, might have grown up owning every toy that enchanted his eyes, but it does not mean every day is a Santa Claus bringing him, in the easy way, desires of his heart.

And his very political career might look a cake walk in the eyes of men cheering the game from terraces, because they would think Atu’s father do it all for him, but, no, Atupele is his own man– somebody who can campaign and win his party’s leadership two separate times at elective conventions, and also a firebrand presidential candidate who can lose a parliamentary seat.

Atupele’s political career started in 2004 when he won a parliamentary seat in Machinga North East. He was only 26 then. At that age, Atupele cannot deny that his father’s fortune washed his hands with palm oil and helped him launch his career.

However, it would only be one year before his party, UDF, is booted out of government benches after the party’s sponsored candidate, Bingu wa Mutharika, formed his own Democratic Progressive Party.

Further, at 26 years Atupele had already gone to finest grammar schools. He had also already read law at University of Leicester in UK, the 31st best university in UK and 239th best in the world, according to 2020 university rankings.

And yet, throughout Bingu’s first term of office, Atupele was not, in any way, a name that would be mentioned at market places. Even when his father, Bakili Muluzi, sought a third term in office, Atupele was still wearing political diapers, and making no headlines. And clearly, he is the man who waits for his turn.

And patience pays. When Atupele was still not the leader of UDF, Former President Joyce Banda appointed him Minister of economic planning in 2012.

In the same year, Atupele would be campaigning to be the party’s presidential torchbearer. At that time, UDF was clearly riddled in intra-party muddling and madness.

Malawi President Mutharika and Atupele Muluzi before appointing him as his runningmate

The then interim leader, Friday Jumbe, even wanted to defer the party’s elective convention in fear that it would further the party’s cracks.

But in October 2012, Atupele was on top of his ambitions. The elective convention crowned him the party’s presidential torchbearer for 2014 presidential elections.

And so leadership was democratically handed over to Atupele. It was not a Christmas gift from his father. And to win it, he had to floor former sports minister Moses Doss and former Human Resources Manager of Escom, Ruth Takumana.

In the next two years, Atupele would be the talk of the town. He was the face of the youths in the race with his Ung’ongo-Ung’ono and agenda for change fame.

Nevertheless, in the heat of his every fight, there is always the mention of his upbringing and the influence of his father that corrupts the judgment on his standing.

DPP Veep For South Kondwani Namkhumwa and UDF leader Atupele Muluzi during DPP-UDF Rally in Blantyre

While elsewhere, proper upbringing and attending elites schools is what thickens political muscles, for Atupele it isn’t, And so his political pilgrimage is not a surface of the cucumber that people pronounce and project it to be.

Every round Atupele goes to town on what he believes in, his critics would always steal his every moment by claiming Atupele is only being a proxy to his father’s interests.

It appears; Atupele would never cast his own shadow nor leave his own footprints because his strides are always consumed by the legacy of the former president, his very father, Bakili Muluzi.

We all hope for the best out of our kids, but it does not mean we don’t want them to walk on their own feet. But in the cloak of Atupele’s fluency, it the influence of his father that is counted.

And some of his critics, Atupele is the man who weakened the yellow bloc.

Well, he may not be. UDF sabotaged its own odds when it forfeited his candidature and endorsed MCP candidate in 2009 presidential elections.

Recently, Joyce Banda did the same, and a recent survey by afrobarometer shown less than 1 percent of voters would vote for PP if elections were held in November last year.

In the 2014 elections, Atupele got around 700 thousand votes, and was number four. Since the 2019 elections were nullified by courts, this writing would rather use the Afrobarometer’s projections based on its survey.

The survey had found DPP was the most popular party at the time of the research, followed by MCP and UTM. Only about 2 percent said they would vote for UDF.

You might think these lower ratings of UDF means failed leadership in UDF. But looking at the bigger picture, it’s the political dynamics that have changed.

And had UDF been as strong as it were in 2004 when it was in power with late Bingu Mutharika as its torchbearer, DPP wouldn’t have been strong today.

The two parties are both based in the south and attractive to the same base. Clearly, Atupele sacrificed a lot in his package to serve in DPP-led government in the past five years.

Mutharika with his Running mate Muluzi after nomination paper presentation

 In the course, DPP has been rewarded with massive support from the eastern region, the area mostly deemed stronghold for UDF.

And so for DPP to ever stand a chance of retaining its glory of power, it needed to strengthen its marriage with UDF.

And there is no other way that could be done aside from taking Atupele Muluzi himself as a running mate.

Frankly, UTM and MCP are together a powerful political force, and the only strategy DPP would sustain its power is by consolidating the southern region vote, and pushing to gain a quarter of all votes in northern and central region.

To win, DPP and its partner, UDF, will mainly be eyeing Lilongwe urban, Ntcheu, Salima and Nkhotakota in the central region and Nkhatabay, Karonga and Likoma in the north.

 The extent to which UTMCP alliances into the south or seal the mentioned districts will determine the true winner of the fresh elections.

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