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Brown Mpinganjira uses another one of his nine political lives to once again rise as DPP spokesman

Brown James Mpinganjira, popularly known as BJ

Brown James Mpinganjira, popularly known as BJ is a Malawian Politician who used his 1986 detention to fight the injustices of the then one-party state. He worked with others in prison and used their time to devise ways on how to change the direction of Malawi’s political state.

Brown Mpinganjira was detained in 1986 and was released in 1991 due to international pressure. He began working for British council upon his release and received support from international community to form a pressure group and lobby for a referendum to decide whether Malawi was still to remain a one party state or become a multi-party democracy. In the 1993 referendum, history was made at the polls when Malawians voted for multi-party democracy.

 In the first multi-party elections, Mpinganjira contested as Member of Parliament in his hometown Mulanje. He won the parliamentary seat in 1994 and served as an MP for Mulanje Central for 15 years. In the 15 years that he was in parliament, Mpinganjira had a colorful political career and is one of the best political masterminds in Malawi. He has contested once as a Presidential candidate for National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 2004 and as a running mate in the Mgwirizano Coalition (MCP & UDF) in 2009.

In 1994, Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda was defeated and Bakili Muluzi was elected as Malawi’s 2nd president. Brown Mpinganjira was elected as Member of Parliament for Mulanje Central and served as a Minister during Bakili’s tenure and was known as his right-hand man. In May 1994 he was appointed as the Minister of Information, Broadcasting, Post & Telecommunications. His notable achievement during his time in this Ministry was the introduction of a Television station, private radio stations, commencement of cellular or mobile phone in Malawi and the onset of internet services.

 In July 1997 he was appointed as Minister of Education. In May 1999 after winning a second term as President of Malawi, Muluzi appointed Mpinganjira as Minister of Foreign Affairs [Minister of Foreign Affairs (Malawi)|Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malawi]] up until Jan 2000 when he was then appointed as Minister of Transport and Public Works. In October 2000, Muluzi dropped Mpinganjira from his cabinet and he was arrested on charges of corruption and that he had taken a $731 bribe to offer lucrative deals to his friends when he was Minister of Education. Mpinganjira dismissed the charges as being politically motivated. He said then that he broke with Muluzi over the latter’s attempt to have the constitution changed so that he could run for a third term of office. Mpinganjira was acquitted of all charges as there was no evidence to support the claims.

National Democratic Alliance (NDA)

Mpinganjira formed his own party, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).The party was formed on to fight the third term bill that Muluzi wanted. Mpinganjira and others retaliated that was not the democracy that they fought for and would not allow Muluzi to become another “life president”. In October 2001, Mpinganjira was arrested again, this time on charges of treason. These charges were again dropped due to lack of evidence in April 2002. The bill proposing to change the constitution amendment was defeated in July 2002. This is one of Mpinganjira greatest win.

In the 2004 presidential election, the UDF candidate Bingu wa Mutharika won the elections and Mpinganjira NDA was placed fourth, receiving only 8.7% of the vote. The party managed to contribute a number of Members of Parliament to the National Assembly among them Billy Kaunda and Mpinganjira himself. Mpinganjira later dissolved the NDA and rejoined the United Democratic Front, a party he helped to found.

 The party formally deregistered in August of 2004.

In the May 2009 presidential election, Mpinganjira (on a UDF ticket) ran alongside Malawi Congress Party (MCP) presidential candidate John Tembo as Tembo’s vice-presidential candidate. The MCP and the UDF both supported Tembo in the election. This time Mpinganjira not only lost the presidential race but he lost his seat as MP for Mulanje Central after serving for 15 consecutive years.

Joyce Banda and PP

After the then Vice President Joyce Banda fell out with President Bingu, she and others formed People’s Party. Mpinganjira who had not been active on the political scene joined the part and served as Treasurer General of the party and Vice President of the party. In April 2012, the President of Malawi Bingu wa Mutharika died leaving Joyce Banda to take on the mantle as President. Mpinganjira was appointed to serve as Minister of Water Development and Irrigation in June 2013. In September of 2013 he was then appointed as Minister of Information and Civic Education, a position he held until May 2014. In the 2004 general elections, Joyce Banda’s candidature lost to DPP’s Peter Mutharika. In May 2015, Mpinganjira resigned from the Peoples Party.

Welcome back in the DPP

In January 2018, Mpinganjira was welcomed into the DPP party by President Peter Mutharika at a rally. In February 2018, he was appointed as Board Chairman of the National Roads Authority. In 2019, 2 of Mpinganjira sons, Patrick Matola (Independent, Chiradzulu) and Chipiliro Mpinganjira (DPP, Blantyre Central) were elected as Members of Parliament.

As of last week, he was appointed spokesperson for opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Brown. His first official act was to respond to Lazarus Chakwera’s SONA describing it as not a true reflection of what is on the ground.

He has said President Lazarus Chakwera is “Mr Talk-talk’” who speaks good English full of eloquence but lacks the necessary vision to take the country forward.

In an interview, Mpinganjira said while Malawi is mired in many deep and seemingly intractable problems, the President thought is wise to announce that his government would build official offices for Members  of Parliament in all the 193 constituencies.

“If that is not an insult to struggling Malawians, then insult has lost its meaning. MPs have access to parliamentary loans: they receive various allowances; and they receive salaries.

What is wise about constructing offices for people who are already managing when teachers, nurses and many public servants are living in mud and grass-thatched houses?

“That was the most horrible part of his speech. The President could have done better,” said Mpinganjira.

Brown Mpinganjira said among the problems confronting Malawi today are the weak state of the economy, poor roads infrastructure, housing, lack of essential drugs, inadequate schools and teaching and learning materials and high level of unemployment, hunger and the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, among others.

He faulted the President for adequately addressing these issues and articulate realistic approaches to address the same.

Brown Mpinganjira said many state-owned companies including ADMARC, Blantyre Water Board, Malawi Posts Corporation, ESCOM and MACOHA are now technically insolvent.

He said the  President should have told the nation how his government intends to turn around these lossmaking entities instead of exalting court judges for putting him in his seat, he argued.

“These companies and others continue to offer a huge burden on the government’s finances, due to the damage done to them through mismanagement and abuse. What should be the remedy if I may ask the President. I am not impressed at all,” said Brown Mpinganjira

Sources: Wikipedia, Nyasatimes

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