Counterjab: Could ex Malawi leader’s son Atupele get on 2019 DPP presidential ticket?

Malawi president Peter Mutharika, 76, predicts he will be around during and beyond the 2019 presidential polls. He knows so judging from the condition of his innards which he claims are like those of one who is 30 years old.

Atupele Muluzi and President Mutharika

Atupele Muluzi and President Mutharika

Mutharika was explaining his absence from the country for several weeks after attending the United Nations General Assembly in the United States. He dismissed talk that he was seriously ill and calls for his resignation.

No human being knows their expiry date and Mutharika is welcome to say whatever he wants about his shelf life.

If the president got incapacitated, the vice president would take over, according to the country’s constitution.

Despite having provisions to take care of the eventuality, the development would still create problems in the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) given what happened in the past.

The opposition of course can only watch from the sidelines but Malawi isn’t short of creative people like former President Bakili Muluzi. Would this present an opportunity down the line?

Vice President Saulosi Chilima would take over from Mutharika if he couldn’t continue. But Chilima, the most punctual politician in a country where leaders aren’t conscious about time, is reportedly unpopular among some DPP members since he is a johnny-come-lately. He joined DPP in the run-up to the 2014 elections to shore up its appeal among young voters and spruce up its battered image — in 2011 police killed 20 people in anti-government protests. Before his sudden 2012 death, Bingu was a dictator of sorts.

A political junkie ought to be familiar with what happened when Bingu died but it bears repeating for those who don’t know or need a refresher. Bingu’s succession was contentious. After his death, there was a blackout on his health status for three days. His estranged vice president was automatically supposed to step in, a fact which didn’t sit well with some old guard who worked in cahoots with each other to circumvent the constitution and stop her ascendency to the presidency.

Joyce Banda, who became Malawi’s first female president and Africa’s second female head of state in the modern era, had been fired from DPP. On the face of it, Bingu, who’d been grooming his younger brother Peter to succeed him, expelled Banda from DPP.

Back in 2004, Bingu was also a johnny-come-lately to the then ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) of President Muluzi who anointed him as his successor against the wishes of the party. Bingu became president but later founded DPP after leaving UDF while in power in dispute with his mentor whom he accused of exerting his influence over him.

Bingu’s wish to be succeeded by Peter became a reality two years after his death. He routed Banda in 2014 elections but two years on, Peter’s less than stellar leadership has seen the economy and security continue to spin out of control. After secretly going under the knife in the United States earlier this month, Peter is trying to prove that he is in good health and in control but the chatter of Chilima taking over isn’t going to die down soon. It’s de-javu.

Like his predecessor Banda, the law is on Chilima’s side but he doesn’t have a real political constituency because he isn’t a legislator. And perhaps more like Bingu and Banda – they both were partyless presidents at one time – Chilima would need strong public support to govern. So far, partyless presidents in Malawi have shown to throw out the window all norms of political morality to remain in power.

But Chilima in the driver’s seat could be different from what Malawi has experienced so far. He was well off when he was drafted into DPP from the private sector unlike most Malawi politicians (read as lawmakers) who can barely survive in the private sector and are known for continually demanding higher pay and sometimes threaten to shut down government if their demands aren’t met.

But Chilima’s background and conduct would perhaps not be enough for some influential long-standing DPP members who would resent an “outsider” leading them. They would work against him either by preventing him from taking power or by undermining his administration.

Fast forward to 2019. There’s another player Malawi hasn’t heard much from since joining cabinet from the party which produced Bingu and DPP. Atupele, the son of Muluzi, is UDF leader. Analysts view his joining DPP as calculated to bolster his credentials for a future presidential run after his unsuccessful bid in 2014. I would go out on a limb and say DPP disunity could increase the young firebrand’s odds in 2019.

While DPP and UDF are different, they’re like twins — similar in some ways but different in others. It’s their similarities that naturally draw them together. The question then becomes, in 2019 would it be farfetched for the senior Muluzi — he made Bingu UDF leader, his son joined DPP government and the multi-million dollar corruption case against him is crumbling — to work his magic and bring the two parties together with Atupele, a legislator, getting on the DPP presidential ticket?

  • The author is a former founding editor of Maravi Post
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7 thoughts on “Counterjab: Could ex Malawi leader’s son Atupele get on 2019 DPP presidential ticket?”

  1. Melisa says:

    The analysis is flawed. Do you think DPP can let Atupele Muluzi be president? The guy does not have any support. And they can’t just hand him the presidency. Remember there are some people within DPP who have ambitions to become president. So they can’t just allow him to take over. Secondly, Muluzi has a brand expired a long time ago. No one wants another Muluzi to be president. Again, the results of the 2014 elections is clear evidence. He came number 4 in the elections. This tells you Malawians do not want another Muluzi to be president.
    Secondly, UDF is a finished party and DPP cannot allow Atupele to ride on their back. They have less than 10 MPs now. UDF is a finished because of the selfishness of his father. He wanted his son to be president. After he failed, he pushed him to PP and then DPP. These tactics will NOT work because DPP gurus will simply not allow him to overtake them. Many of the DPP gurus have worked tirelessly and invested a lot to build the party.
    Please be critical when analyzing issues. Or let real political analysts do it. I do not want to comment on Chilima because what you said is hearsay.

  2. Our leaders money hungry no leadership on them that’s why we are at this point of situations.

  3. True Patriot says:

    No ways, that won’t happen!

    The author is oversimplifying Malawian political dynamism.

    Here is what would happen and under what circumstances;
    1) VP Chilima will only assume the presidency IF APM gets incapacitated, or God forbid worse, within the next 30days as per my layman’s understanding of the country’s constitution. If such an eventuality were to happen beyond next month, then Saulos can as well forget ever ruling this country, at least not under the DPP flag.

    Now, from the evidence of the last few days, if matters of death followed common logic, then the current tenant at State House is still soundly around for some time so Saulos can just be contented with the VP’s portfolio.

    2) Turning to the young Muluzi, one wonders what could ever be the reasoning behind such wild imagination! I mean, come to think of it, is it really plausible to suppose that Muluzi senior is owed so much favor by DPP gurus as to hand the young Muluzi the presidency on DPP ticket?

    Perhaps there is something that the author knows that most of us don’t know. In any case, one needs to realize that this is DPP where tribal blood is everything and common sense and logic don’t matter.

    3) DPP’s unwritten rule is that the party, being a creation by one of their own illustrious sons, is a Lhomwe pride and it exclusively belongs to them (apologies Goodall and co.).

    It is therefore perhaps little surprising that some senior cabinet ministers openly declare their ambitions to rule the country, treasonous as it may ordinarily appear. Such ambitions would only be declared with deep-rooted support from some no ordinary mortals – perhaps the Czar himself!

    It is therefore, ridiculous to start overly exciting the two young politicians, particularly the young Muluzi – Chilima stands an outside chance with the Almighty’s intervention.

  4. Zangaphee says:

    I never thought about it this way until now. Indeed this could happen. Malawians we do not learn from mistakes.

  5. Central says:

    Atupepele’s image is damaged and dented badly!!

    Some of us have now adequate evidence that he is too bad in decision making and his dictionary doesn’t have the term “prioritization”.

    After all h is the greatest contributor to the current Malawi’s bad economic stand!! Watha ngati makatani mnyamata uyu….!!! Kukhalitsa ndi ana a nursery kapena sukulu za kwacha umaganizanso ngati wa nursury kapena wakwacha respectively………..the act of Atupele!! kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk!!

  6. Achimphamba Oyera says:

    The article puts Chilima and Muluzi at par. We ordinary Malawians sometimes do not know what happens behind the scenes. Could it happen that the young Muluzi used to link up with the Mutharikas when he was abroad”eating” Malawians money? Do you really know the gamble that Chilima played to ensure that Peter would win? Are you so naïve to think he was picked up only to attract the youthful vote? Go deeper… it was a big pact that only few people know.
    The Muluzis have had their play. The big Muluzi cannot anymore command popularity per se. Many Malawians are taken up by “morale”…splashing cash, drinks both softs and hard ones, zitenje, mpunga and nyama ya nkhuku. Abale, a Malawi sitidziwa chomwe tikufuna.
    This young Atupele speaks the language of Mzungu… Mzungu ndi wa ku England tu.. UK. Osati zinazi. Amaganiza mwachizungu. Kuzungulira mutu!

  7. Abit Ntila says:

    This is another mistaking awaiting to happen. UDF is almost non existence. Atupele has no capability to lead. He does not have backbone, period. Alibe nfundo.

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