Former First Lady Callista Mutharika’s comments supporting Vice-President Saulos Chilima as the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) torch-bearer in the 2019 elections continued to dominate the Malawi media this week, with Saturday papers focusing on a youth-driven ‘revolution’ for battle for succession at the top job.
The Weekend Nation, under the headline ‘DPP youths in pro-Chilima chants’, reported on hundreds of supporters clad in DPP regalia who went through the usual routine of seeing President Peter Mutharika off at Kamuzu International Airport on Friday in Lilongwe broke into pro-Chilima chants.
The paper quoted the chants of the DPP youth which it reported clearly shocked and embarrassed top ruling DPP officials who could be seen disappearing to their cars.
“Wokana Chilima amangidwe [Those rejecting Chilima should be arrested],” some of the youths chanted, while others sang, “Chilima yemweyo, kuti wa-wa-wa! [Chilima is our celebrated choice].”
More chants said: “Chilima ndi boma [Chilima is government] and “bola Chilima [Chilima is better!].”
Two camps have emerged in the DPP with one rooting for the incumbent , while another embrace the ‘bombshell’ statement made by Mutharika’s in-law, former first lady Callista Mutharika, saying that the 79-year-old President is old and must retire because he is no longer popular enough to make the party win next year’s elections. Instead, she declared that the youthful Chilima, aged 45, should be the DPP presidential candidate next year, if the party hopes to retain the presidency.
“Hurricane Callista”was the headline in the flagship Malawi News, reporting that the DPP has been hit with a crisis going by the name Hurricane Callista.
The paper also reported about a group of DPP youths who mobbed the Veep car, and started singing in support of him.
Accoring to the paper, at one point they sang: “Chilima ndi pwepwete… Chilima ndi pwepwete, pwetepwete, enawa ndi ojiya mtauni!”
Some sections of the DPP are trying to ostracise Chilima.
But both papers reported that at the airport, President Mutharika and VP Chilima shook hands and chatted briefly, they seemed to enjoy their normal working relationship.
Mutharika has gone for a two-week visit to the United Kingdom that starts with his attending a three-day Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) on Monday. He will later go on a four-day State visit to Scotland.
After the President’s chartered jet registration PA BFY took off, Chilima dismissed the guard of honour in the company of Army Commanger Griffin Supuni and acting Inspector General of Police Rodney Jose.
Malawi Law Society (MLS) president Mwiza Nkhata said the Constitution is very clear on who is in charge in the absence of the President, telling Malawi News that Chilima is acting Head of State.
“The default position is normally the Vice President. The Constitution says in the absence of the President, the Vice President discharges the duties of the President. One of the duties is presiding over cabinet meetings,” Nkhata said as quoted by the weekly.
Nkhata also highlighted Section 79 of the Constitution which gives an indication that the Vice President is the one who takes charge in the absence of the President.
“There shall be a First Vice- President and, subject to section 80 (5), a Second Vice-President both of whom shall assist the President and who shall exercise the powers and perform the functions conferred on the First Vice-President or the Second Vice-President, as the case may be, by this Constitution or by any Act of Parliament and by the President,” reads the section.
Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi declined to comment on the matter.
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