There is growing discomfort among some senior members of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) over Vice President Dr Saulos Kalus Chilima’s recent rising political profile and well-received speeches during public appearances, Nyasa Times understands.
According to a senior DPP NGC member privy to the scenario, they are weary of what they suspect is the Vice President’s deliberate urge to “undermine” President Peter Mutharika while building his political profile ahead of 2019.
Chilima made headlines recently when he inspected what he called “sub-standard” K290 million Tengani Dyke in Nsanje and blasted contractors and project managers for the shoddy work and, just last week, did what most politicians would be too afraid to do: telling off some flood-hit Lilongwe residents to leave their areas, which are regarded as illegal settlements.
He has also kept a tight schedule, including attending the Catholic’s pre-valentine fundraising dinner, teeing off at the Polytechnic Alumni Charity Golf Tournament and presenting a public lecture titled “Addressing Moral Decadence: Towards an Effective Compliance and Ethics Programme” at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College in Zomba.
The public lecture was organised by the College’s Department of Philosophy and open to students, the public and the media.
The NGC member—who asked not to be named to freely provide the thinking of her fellow senior DPP members—noted that by ‘chastising’ moral decadence, including corruption, as “behaviour that shows a love of self-indulgence, pleasure and money”, is being viewed in the ruling party as an attempt by the Vice President to indirectly take a dig at the very issues that the DPP government stands accused of.
The public rebukes are being seen by some DPP gurus as Chilima’s way of de-linking himself from the DPP to create his own image or political profile, she noted.
She said it was rare in politics for things to just happen by mistake, saying the frequency of the Vice President’s public appearances, with heightened media publicity, may be a political strategy towards running for President in 2019.
“It is, therefore, important for the DPP as a party to do some soul-searching to understand what the Vice President may be up to,” she said.
Mutharika’s surprise choice of Chilima as running mate in 2014 paid positive political dividends as his youthfulness and denomination (a devout Catholic) worked to the advantage of Professor Mutharika’s presidential bid.
But the duo’s relationship has cooled off considerably—with the President and his vice going months without meeting.
But President Mutharika last year declared that Chilima was his ‘son’ and that any suggestions that their relations were strained were incorrect.
There are now unconfirmed reports that President Mutharika may sideline Chilima as running mate.
Possible names being floated around include Bright Msaka, the current Minister of Education and Atupele Muluzi, the Minister of Health and President of the United Democratic Front (UDF), which is an opposition party in an informal coalition with DPP.
Since the dawn of multiparty politics in 1993, it is only UDF’s Bakili Muluzi who retained his Vice President Dr. Justin Malewezi on the ticket during his 10-year tenure although the two fell out in the twilight of their last term when Muluzi wanted to prolong his stay through failed open terms and third term bids respectively.
His successor, the late Bingu wa Mutharika, had the worst relationship during his first term with his Vice, Dr. Cassim Chilumpha.
Bingu even tried to fire Chilumpha for “undermining government integrity”, but the court stopped from doing so, saying he had no power to remove his Vice.
Chilumpha ended up being arrested for treason—a case that remains unresolved today.
In his re-election bid in 2009, Bingu chose Joyce Banda as running mate. She went on to become the first woman Vice President in Malawi, but it was not long before she, too, fell out of grace with the President.
When Bingu died in 2012, Banda took over power. She appointed Khumbo Kachali as Vice President only to dump him for Sosten Gwengwe as her running mate in 2014, when she lost to Mutharika.
Salima-based social and political commentator, Dalitso Gome, said in an interview that going by this trend, Chilima may be preparing for the worst case scenario.
He said that as much as he is hoping that President Mutharika would retain him as running mate, he is also likely preparing his political future if he is dumped in preference for someone else.
“Dr. Chilima will not sit back and move on with his private life if he is dumped. Politics is addictive and his enhanced visibility could be a way of bolstering his personal as well as political profile, and also to remain politically relevant in view of the general election next year,” opined Gome.
DPP spokesperson Francis Kasaila refused to be drawn to comment on the matter, saying it is not in the interest of the party to discuss in public its elections strategies for 2019.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :