“My comment is that it sounds to be a wrong observation. Thank you,” briefly responded Vice president Saulos Chilima to Malawi News as my old employer requested Number Two’s comment on rumors of bad blood between President Peter Mutharika and himself.
Well, the response itself tells a story. Its brief, but one is tempted, perhaps, too brief. It lacks the vigor of one confident of his fate. So is there trouble in paradise and what next for the former corporate executive-turned-politician?
All this, though, comes, as no surprise. This blog has previously written, in depth, on the historic dangers facing Chilima.
The office of the vice president is a poisoned chalice as any of Chilima’s four predecessors would attest. Justin Malewezi, Cassium Chilumpha, Joyce Banda, Khumbo Kachali all ended up ostracized, vanquished or feeling betrayed by their respective bosses.
Malewezi once lamented: The office of Vice President is one of Africa’s “endangered species.”
During campaign for 2014 elections, journalist Idriss Ali Nassah was not alone when he wondered what had attracted Chilima to leave his bright career as a corporate czar to become deputy to Mutharika. He saw a mismatch and predicted trouble.
“Saulos Chilima has left a plum job at Airtel to be lured into a cul-de-sac as Peter Mutharika’s running mate and I don’t know why,” wrote Nassah in an article titled fittingly, “Much ado about a useless job.”
“It would kill me to be deputy to Peter Mutharika and here is why: Not once when he was Minister of Justice, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Education did we see spark of leadership from him,” added Nassah, “As a Minister, his style to most of the problems he faced was to close his eyes and pretend they did not exist and hope the problems disappeared. If they become too much, he would hop on his brother’s presidential jet and fly to America.”
That was Nassah’s scathing take on the Chilima/Mutharika presidency to be in its infancy.
I saw Chilima’s convoy just last Sunday. It was small. Chilima looked trendy, spotting a nice blue cap and golf-shirt, too. And he was behind the wheel.
Such young charming promise, such knack for doing business unusual appears to be no longer welcome in the mighty DPP, if you read the signs of times, or at least trust Times Group’s journalism.
The previous Sunday, Number Two could only watch at Masintha ground in the capital as minister after minister took the podium to address a rally—quasi political-state function—aimed at quenching fears that the DPP-led government is floundering in its delivery of its 2014 reformist electoral manifesto.
Of course, the party also sought to project its clean bill of health (and mucho?) by parading scores of returnees and new catches. How robust!
Ominously for Number Two, he was omitted from the A-list speakers. When it was the turn for someone to ask Mutharika to address the crowd, the honor went to Goodall Gondwe— yes good ole Gondwe who can’t say hello in Chichewa—addressing a partisan rally at Masintha ground.
Let’s roll back the days and see what is happening here.
According to Malawi News, when Mutharika arrived from USA where Mutharika was barricaded for close to a month allegedly battling some rheumatism, creating speculation and anxiety within his party and outside, he addressed a rally in Mulanje.
At the rally, the newspaper recalls Mutharika accusing some members of his party of being busy sharing cabinet positions in his absence.
Mutharika further said he now knows he is surrounded by some “Pharisees and Judas Iscariots.”
Yet, more pointed words, just hang on: “Some people in Lilongwe were going to Thyolo asking where my tomb would be. While I was enjoying coffee in New York, some people here were busy planning for my state funeral. The day I die, I will let you know. I will call you and let you know that I am dead.”
First question: Who stands to benefit most if Mutharika suddenly and unexpectedly kicks the bucket? Who will suddenly get powers to appoint Ministers? Clue: it’s not poor Lazarus Chakwera!
Suffice to say, we have a president who glorifies social media nonsense so much that one wonders whether his statements are premised from solid intelligence from Nicholas Dausi or his own imagination after reading a few statuses on My Malawi, My Views.
A case in point is his preoccupation with the weird idea that some radio station in Malawi had announced his death while in USA.
But hold on, we are not done with that colourful quote, not yet.
“During Bingu’s time, there were many and dangerous Pharisees and Judas Iscariots. I did not know that I have those Pharisees around me. They were busy sharing cabinet positions and other positions while I was away. But I told those people that there are only two things one cannot run away from thus death and taxes. Or you may evade tax but certainly not death.”
While let’s check this again, I doubt Lazarus Chakwera got a call from the president to say, ‘hey, had lucky mate with your cabinet plans, I am back in robust health and fit as fiddle.’ I doubt.
Mgeme Kalirani, whom whose job is to speak for the president, says there is no story here, period. Boniface Dulani whom whose job is to explain all things political, says we should see all this in realm of greed and hunger for power.
Months before Malawi News carried the article “Cracks between Chilima and APM, a pro-DPP newspaper The Globe wrote a scathing article attacking Chilima and others within the party of plotting against the president.
The article carried many lurid allegations, the sort you will find on My Malawi My Views all the time, including, bizarrely, alleged witchcraft plots.
In wake of the article, the first open escalation of the DPP infighting in the public domain, I asked Local Government Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa and Noel Masangwi, the party’s southern region strongman, both figures who happens to have previously owned defunct pro-DPP newspapers (and rumored to own The Globe) if they run The Globe. They all vehemently denied it.
Well, before The Globe attacked Chilima, there was an audio clip that went viral in which Patricia Kaliati, DPP’s former attack dog or village idiot, –recently removed as government spokesperson— apparently speaking on phone to a source within the party who narrates how Nankhumwa is plotting against Kaliati.
By the way, Kaliati, who previously could be the first name of those to speak at any DPP rally, was not among those who were granted a chance to address the seismic Masintha rally. Follow my brief, folks, there is trouble in the mighty party.
Of course, it’s not a story, just rumors—thanks to Mgeme who speaks for State House and Francis Kasaila who speaks for mighty DPP. Factionalism doesn’t exist in mighty DPP! Between a president and his deputy, neither do any bad blood! All is well.
So what now for Chilima? Have the vultures that circled and devoured his predecessors moved on or they circling back to Area 12? “In Africa, there are endangered species, the latest is the office of Vice president,” again former vice president Justin Chimera Malewezi, a man who saw it all.
- The article is sourced from