Divisions have emerged inside the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as senior cabinet ministers position themselves for power following the purported illness of President Peter Mutharika.
Nyasa Times can reveal that Minister of Agriculture Dr. George Chaponda is leading a faction plotting to stop Vice President Dr Saulos Chilima through a constitutional amendment.
Sources close to the Speaker of the National Assembly Richard Msowoya indicate that Chaponda, a lawyer by profession, has stepped up his efforts making attempts to garner support for an amendment to effectively stop Chilima from taking over in case the President resigns, dies or he is incapacitated.
Chaponda is also Leader of the House, as well as ruling DPP vice president who has repositioned himself as heir apparent.
“The whole point is to avoid the repeat of what happened when Bingu wa Mutharika died. That can’t be allowed again,” said a close associate to Chaponda.
Chaponda would need a two thirds majority in parliament to amend the constitution and give powers to the President and the same number to sack or impeach a sitting Vice President.
And with the current numbers, and tension between the ruling party and the opposition, money will exchange hands to buy the vote for them to achieve that.
But Chaponda refused to comment on the matter referring to Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Samuel Tembenu, saying he was “in-charge” of the said matter.
Tembenu could not be reached for comment, but Parliament sources say he has been rebuffed by the Speaker to call for an emergency sitting of parliament to amend the constitution.
Another growing faction within the party is one led by Ben Phiri, a former Presidential Chief Aide and Mutharika’s most trusted man. Phiri is said to mounting the fight on two fronts; trying to stop Chaponda’s Presidential ambitions and also working against Chilima.
“He has amassed enough money and used it to buy many MPs, opposition members, the church, the media and chiefs. He is slowly gaining ground within the rank and file of the party as well,” said another insider.
But Chaponda has set his game plan well to crash Phiri and all seeking power.
Joyce Banda had served as Vice President under Bingu Wa Mutharika who died after a heart attack in April 2012. She succeeded him under the terms of the constitution and became the first female President in southern Africa effectively halting a plot led by Peter Mutharika to stop her ascendance.
Chaponda, worked with late President Bingu wa Mutharika at COMESA in Zambia and he is said to be very close to President Peter Mutharika who he went with to Yale University in the 70s.
Reports that Mutharika’s health is declining have been all over social media in recent weeks because of his unexplained prolonged stay in the USA where he went to attend the United Nations General Assembly.
His return home on Sunday partly confirmed social media speculation that he was ill and had sought medical help while in the USA.
He used his left hand to shake hands with the welcoming party led by his deputy and showed some signs of frailty, walking from the plane and only chatting briefly with officials before being whisked away in a motorcade.
Mutharika, 76, had been out of the southern African nation for 28 days fueling intense speculation on social media that he is bed ridden, recovering from surgery
Malawi’s flagship newspaper , the Daily Times, blamed government for the speculation and reminded the State that the citizens have a right to question the whereabouts of the President in the absence of any explanation.
Meanwhile, State House has said President Mutharika will address a news conference on Friday.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :