Analysis: Mutharika’s crocodile tears over Chilima is an empty tribute aimed at re-writing history

In a tribute posted today on his Facebook page, former president Peter Mutharika waxed lyrical about the “good relationship” he allegedly shared with his former vice president, Saulos Chilima. However, Mutharika’s words ring hollow when examined against his series of militant words and actions against Chilima during his time in power.

Pressident Mutharika and his then Vice-President Chilima 

Throughout Chilima’s tenure as vice president under Mutharika’s leadership, the former president made repeated calls for Chilima to resign from government. Chilima refused to bow to these demands, instead resigning from Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and founding his own political party, the UTM.

In August 2018, Mutharika threatened to deal with Chilima and his team using Section 4 of the Protected Flag, Emblems and Names Act: “I hear that last week these movement [UTM] people came here and spoke very disrespectful things about me. But I want to warn Chilima, Masangwi, Kaliati and Callista Chapola. I want to warn you, don’t push me around. You better stop what you are doing. There are laws in this country about how you describe a President. If you will not stop, I am going to break on your heads a tonne of bricks, and I mean it,” he said. But this threat backfired big time following public backlash such that Mutharika lost the appetite of even opening the Act.

In July 2019, Mutharika’s office withdrew Chilima’s security clearance, saying he would only have that privilege when performing government duties. But Mutharika never delegated any government duties to Chilima, effectively grounding him without any security clearance. Remember the days Mutharika would let either Goodall Gondwe or Kondwani Nankhumwa being in-charge of the country when he was going abroad?

On 12th September 2019, Mutharika made a cabinet reshuffle, the entire purpose of which was to drop Chilima, the Vice President then, from his cabinet. This was a blatant defiance of the Constitution which entitles the Vice President to be part of the Cabinet. The constitution provides that the country shall have “a Cabinet consisting of the President, the First Vice President, … and such Ministers and Deputy Ministers as may, from time to time, be appointed by the President”.

This followed a protracted period of ill-treating and sidelining Chilima on account that he was a threat to a succession plan which was not ready to accommodate anyone from outside Lhomwe belt to become DPP torchbearer. Tired with the ill-treatment, Chilima simply resigned from the then ruling DPP, accusing it of breeding nepotism, cronyism and corruption.

On 4th May 2020, Chilima spoke during a press briefing that he conducted at UTM offices in Area 10, Lilongwe saying: “In short, Professor Mutharika and the DPP have no intention of preaching non-tribalism or national unity. Their evil agenda is tribal hegemony. Their ideology is rooted in violence and intimidation. He and his party have decided to wage a war on the people of this nation…”

Evidently, Mutharika’s current attempts to rewrite history with empty platitudes about their relationship are nothing more than crocodile tears, designed to obscure his shameful treatment of his former vice president.

The people of Malawi deserve leaders who prioritize national unity and the rule of law, not those who engage in petty political vendettas and abuse their power to sideline perceived rivals.

Mutharika’s hollow tribute to Chilima is a disservice to the Malawian people and a blatant attempt to rewrite a history that is all too well documented.


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