For all intents and purposes, Saulos Chilima is out of government.
The law makes it impossible for President Peter Mutharika to fire him and in practice he will be part of a government that he is actively seeking to topple from power next year because in his own words during the press conference on Wednesday, it is a “swamp” that needs draining.
Chilima’s speech on Wednesday was powerful and spot on in its diagnosis of the problems confronting this country.
His attempt to seek inspiration for bravery and fortitude from past freedom fighters in this country, starting from John Chilembwe to the 1959 martyrs and all the way to the heroes of 1992 such as the Catholic bishops, was without blemish.
But he said nothing that Malawians do not know already.
It is common knowledge that corruption is thriving in this country. We also know nepotism, regionalism, tribalism and cronyism have become our way of life for the past four years in that opportunities are not doled out based on merit but based on who you are connected with and where you come from.
We also all know that our leaders are not making a difference in taking this the country forward although they vehemently protest this.
In short, the country is truly aware and agrees with Chilima’s diagnosis. The only difference is that all these things that are already in the public domain are being said by an insider who has been part and parcel of the system.
Simply put, Chilima has validated our fears that all is not well in the way our affairs are being managed and he has called all of us to emulate our forefathers who did something when they saw that their country was taking the wrong direction.
For me, now, the take home message from this all-out civil war in the DPP should be that parties in power will now be careful in how they treat their vice presidents who should ordinarily be understudying their bosses for eventual take over as part of succession plans.
This has not been the case and it is no wonder that since the advent of multiparty democracy in 1994, no vice president has taken over from a president to govern this country.
But this time we are witnessing something different. Whether through fate or careful machinations, Vice President Saulos Chilima has changed the politics of DPP forever.
The party will not go into the full-fledged campaign for next year’s elections as a united front with the announcement the Vice President made that he will have no role in the DPP’s convention and will not challenge his boss for the presidency of the party.
All this thanks to the drama in DPP that has ensued after former first lady Callista Mutharika said President Peter Mutharika should pave way for Chilima to stand as a torchbearer for the party during next year’s presidential elections.
At first, the neutrals thought this is just a conspiracy of some big headed individuals in the party to cause confusion.
It turns out this is not exactly the case as the Chilima rebellion was so deeply entrenched that it is even in the grassroots, right in what many may consider typical Mutharika strongholds of Thyolo and Mulanje.
It started with the DPP Blantyre District Committee asking the party leaders to call for convention dates, arguing against leaders imposing candidates on them.
Then Mulanje, which many consider as a DPP stronghold, followed with Chilima supporters convening separate meetings in three constituencies where they voiced their anger against the tendency of imposing leaders on them.
Then the Chilima group was in Thyolo with a similar message that they want a convention as soon as yesterday.
This is a slap right in the face of the President and his supporters who wanted to make us believe the rebellion was just about some disgruntled characters in DPP who were not enjoying the ride with others on government gravy train by way of not getting contracts.
But the grassroots are saying we support Chilima.
What is the main issue at play in this matter apart from politics? What is driving the die-hard supporters of DPP in the heartland of the party’s stronghold such as Mulanje to throw caution to the wind and rebel against President Peter Mutharka?
Why should staunch supporters of DPP such as Patricia Kaliati whose blood oozes blue suddenly and openly rebel against the President and the party?
What does the whole thing say about the President’s management style that has failed to make his party stick together through thick and thin?
The pro-Mutharika faction argument in the party, that seem to suggest that the Chilima camp does not have grassroots support but just a few disgruntled MPs such as Bon Kalindo who wanted contracts and business but did not get them, has already been shattered.
By all standards, Chilima was shabbily treated. He was not in the centre of power together with the President during the past four years.
He could not even merit a seat in the National Governing Council of the DPP.
His departure from the party is only a logical conclusion of a marriage that has not worked after being beset with suspicion and gossip, right from the word go.
No matter the direction that Chilima will take from here, the DPP is left bruised on the nose and will go into the 2019 elections in tatters.
Chances are high that Chilima wants to do a Macron in Malawi and ride on his Chilima Movement, thereby taking with him many from the DPP.
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