The governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) dominated headlines in the local media with weekend newspaper columnists airing thier views on the matter as former First Lady Callista Mutharika dropped a bombshell that her in law, President Peter Mutharika, should pave way for Saulos Chilima as the torchbearer of the party in next year’s elections.
Writting in Malawi News on his ‘Hitting the Nail’ column, George Kasakula, who is the paper’s editor-in-chief, pointed out that the whole DPP establishment is rattled.
“ Everyone is scampering for political safety as Hurricane Callista has attacked with the vengeance of the avaricious gods,” wrote Kasakula on his influential column.
“It is a debate we must have,” Kasakula titled his column, highlighting the views of Callista endorsing Vice President Chilima to run as candidate for DPP and not President Peter Mutharika in the 2019 elections.
He noted that Callista has followed it up with a scathing attack on the people that have surrounded the President, saying he is a good man but surrounded by selfish corrupt people or beasts of prey as former First Lady had put it.
Kasakula wrote that there is no question that Callista has gone for the “ jugular vein” and the DPP establishment is struggling on how to cope with it.
“It is very clear that the establishment already decided long time ago that Chilima is an outsider and will not be pairing with President Peter Mutharika come 2019. What they were hoping for was that Chilima would play ball by keeping quiet until March next year when the President would be required to present his nomination papers and forced to name a running mate.
“After that, so they hoped, Chilima would simply pick his pension cheque and disappear from the political scene to pave way for the chosen one in DPP. This was wishful thinking and it forms the core reason why DPP is now confused and running scared of the next ‘joker’ Chilima or indeed another ‘Callista’ might throw at them before the 2019 elections,’’ reads Kasakula’s column.
In ‘Hitting the Nail’, Kasakula wrote that DPP will not have its cake and eat it the same time, arguing that the party will not stop Malawians from discussing what kind of President they want as at hand is the future of this country and what kind leadership people need to have.
The columnist say the last four years have been “a living hell” for many honest hardworking Malawians.
“Nothing is working in this place and those who think otherwise should mention what is working and how it has improved the quality of life for the majority of Malawians. The little that is happening is the same business as usual and it is no different from what was happening with previous governments. 2019 offers a real opportunity for possible change of course and Malawians must have a national conversation of what kind leader is best suited to achieve the change we all desire.”
Kasakula stressed that Malawians have a right to have a debate on what kind leaders they want to have and it is the context in which ‘Hurricane Callista’ must be looked at.
Economic commentator and newspaper columnist Ephraim Munthali writing on his ‘Cut the chaff’ page in Weekend Nation, pointed out that one cannot obviously underestimate Callista Muthaeika’s political instincts.
“She certainly knows how to play her game. I mean, you would really be foolish to underrate someone who can change the whole political narrative and control the news agenda for more than a week—and counting,” Munthali wrote.
According to Munthali, Callista’s carefully coordinated and bold move to challenge President Peter Mutharika and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) should not distract the nation from the challenges of our time—problems that are seriously affecting firms and households, especially the poorest of the poor.
“We still have half the population who may not have food for the better part of this year. The country is still reeling from a crippling energy crisis. We still have to grapple with how government wants to throw around K4 billion without clear operational guidelines and while trampling all over the decentralisation architecture that is both backed by law and policy. Fiscal authorities cannot make head and tails as budget implementation gets messed up by government’s failure to meet revenue targets even as it spends recklessly on non-essential things,” reads the column.
Wrote the columnist: “Let’s not forget that public hospitals are telling poor people to buy their own drugs because there aren’t just any. Lest we forget, corruption remains endemic with little progress made towards reducing it as per Transparency International ratings.”
Munthali, who is also Managing Editor at Nation Publications Limited, advised Malawians not to get carried away so much with the DPP’s succession battles “that we forget we have serious problems to solve.”
In her column, Suzgho Khunga, argues that There are so many options open to SKC (Chilima) now “and all come with pitfalls that, as a matured political playmaker, he should be able to successfully navigate”.
She wrote: “SKC will now have to know who his friends and enemies are because among the individuals who are coming out in support of his vying for the presidency at the DPP convention are opportunists who are jumping the DPP ship just to mislead him.
“He has become surrounded by those who genuinely believe he would be a breath of fresh air to the 2019 elections and governance of this country, and those who believe the same but are positioning themselves for selfish reasons. These are the real ‘beasts of prey.’”
Khunga says the whole matter has reached the point that either Chilima must “shut it down now or join in and give people what they want: a decision.”
And Moses Micheal Phiri In his column wrote” It is clear that we Malawians should not trust the current DPP administration because it is corrupt, nepotistic, littered with thugs and a breeding ground for ‘beasts of prey.’ In the words of the former First Lady: ‘They [beats of prey] are everywhere, at State House, in the DPP, everywhere…”
He concluded: “Word on the street is that Callista is not scorned. Not at all. She wishes Malawi well. Perhaps it’s time we should be saying: ‘Hell has no fury like DPP scorned’.”
On his column, journalist Idris Ali Nassah added his voice to the debate, saying Malawi cannot afford any leader—young or old— seemingly disconnected or disinterested, who lives in luxury at the poor people’s expense, who allows the rot of corruption to grow and whose tribesmen corruptly rise from nowhere to dominate virtually all top jobs, especially in the public sector.
According to Nassah, the next election is not about rescuing the country from an old man. It is about recusing the country from sliding inexorably towards a system that favours a select few over the rest.
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