Following my recently published observations of 5 encouraging things about the launch of United Transformation Movement (UTM), here are five alarming things I observed about the same and which I promised to share after the oleaginous fawning over Dr Saulos Klaus Chilima by many Malawian urbanites has somewhat subsided:
1. Saulos is birthing UTM on the deathbed of democracy
In his interview with Gospel Kazako of Zodiak less than three weeks before the launch, Saulos stated clearly that he would make a run for the presidency under the right conditions. One of those conditions was that he’d not impose himself as a candidate, but would want to be duly and democratically nominated as a presidential candidate at a credible elective convention. In saying this, he gave us the expectation that not only would he contest for the presidency of the country democratically, but he would also accept a party’s nomination as a president candidate democratically. We now know that this was empty rhetoric.
The UTM launch is in fact a launch of his candidacy and the party had already acquired cars, minibuses, hats, T-shirts, banners, zitenje, all bearing his face and name as the UTM presidential candidate. You can bet both your arms that those things had already been in motion when he gave that interview 17 days earlier. He talked like intra-party democracy is a top priority to him, and then completely threw intra-party democracy under the bus. Without an elective convention, he is now a presidential candidate, and this alone is a huge red flag, but he raised the red flag even higher by paying lip service to an elective party convention at a time he knew that a non-elective party launch declaring him as the presumptive candidate was already organized. This capacity for being two-faced should send chills down every Malawian spine, if Malawi has any spines to spare.
2. Saulos is unwilling to name the thieves he knows are stealing our national funds
If you listen carefully to his stealthily crafted press statement on June 6th, his interview on July 4th, and his rally speech on July 21st, there is anti-corruption streak in his messaging. He has already been criticized, and fairly so, for being silent and idle for four years about the unprecedented levels of corruption and theft in a government he himself is a part of, and for only speaking out when it was politically opportunistic for him, which is of course a huge red flag.
But here I want to point out that not only does his new-found repudiation of his own government’s thievery smack of political opportunism, but also that as an insider of the executive branch of government who is using his position as Vice President to parade his knowledge of the people who are stealing from us, he has yet to name one single person he knows to be a thief. Not one. While, for example, there is Dr. Lazarus Chakwera on record and standing up in Parliament and staring down the DPP ministerial benches and declaring the DPP by name as “a den of thieves”, here we have Chilima saying there is too much theft in government and yet at the same time wishing the DPP well as he did in his June 6 statement.
While there is another example of Dr. Chakwera on record and standing up before the nation and calling the President a “prince of thieves”, here we have Chilima claiming that he will retrieve the 145 million kwacha stolen from us because he knows where it is, and yet we all know that that money was stolen by the President. When Chilima says that he has seen thieves in government who had nothing in 2014 and have millions now, who is he talking about? When he says that he has seen thieves in government who were skinny in 2014 and have since fattened themselves on stolen wealth, who is he talking about?
And if he is suggesting that it is fair game to judge a government official’s guilt or innocence in the theft of public funds based on the weight they have gained, does that mean we too should reach the same conclusion about the weight he himself has gained and the flamboyant suits he has multiplied in four years? By the standards he is setting for others, can we not measure UTM the same way, a party that had no name or place to spit on at any point but which he says suddenly has the money to run a nationwide campaign for president and field parliamentary candidates in all 193 constituencies even if it means paying the fees MEC charges of contesting candidates?
The theft of public funds is treasonous, and if Chilima thinks he can claim to know who is doing it without naming and shaming them publicly, or thinks he can apply a standard of fiscal accountability for others without applying it to himself and his UTM, then he is not as serious about ending these egregious acts of theft as those who have stood with us against it from day one. Those stealing from us should not be spoken of in hushed tones, in generalities, or by double standards. A thief should not go unnamed. In fact, to know a habitual thief who is stealing from your entire village and not tell the village who that thief is is to protect the interests of the thief. That Chilima is doing that is a major red flag.
3. Saulos is unveiling a political machinery that betrays his previous statements
As recently as June 6, Chilima stated that no one had approached him to consider running for President. He also went further to claim that the very idea of running for President had never even entered his mind. After the launch of his party a month later, revealing many months’ worth of preparation in the form of deal making, endorsements, organization, coordination, partnerships, resource mobilization, and branding, we can now safely conclude that both of Chilima’s claims were a failed attempt at false humility.
Only a fool can now believe that the idea of running for President entered his mind in the last month or that no one had ever approached him about doing so. There was a party registered in 2016; public statements from Richard Msowoya who ditched his party only recently now indicate that he and Chilima have been in clandestine talks for at least two years; and the new party’s branded regalia, who knows how long he’s been preparing those? If you buy his claim that he has only thought about or been involved in the creation of this political platform for six weeks, then you are not equipped to defend yourself against the sleight of hand of political illusionists. That Chilima has shown himself to be one, that he’s not a man about whom what you see publicly is what you get, is a major red flag.
4. Saulos is using unsavory tactics more akin to old politics than new politics
It is not possible to quantify the degree of the nation’s disappointment with the DPP government. Part of the DPP’s failures stems from President Mutharika’s lack of leadership acumen, but we knew this about him before he took the oath of office. Part of the DPP’s failures stems from the fact that it has become a bastion of theft and thuggery, from the man at the top to the painted hooligans on the ground. But at the same time, a huge part of the failure stems from the fact that Mutharika was willing to make impractical promises in order to get himself elected, and now those promises have come to haunt him.
And Chilima made those promises too, mind you. He endorsed that populist manifesto that promised everything, including things that the executive arm of government does not control. And today, listening to Chilima, you are hearing it all over again: one million jobs in one year, trimming presidential powers, removing presidential immunity, jailing all the government thieves he won’t name, and the list goes on. He knows what the people want to hear and he is willing to say it because he saw it work when he did it in 2014, but Malawians should be wary of promises of rescue from a would-be messiah.
What we need are not promises from one person, but an actionable plan shaped and owned by all of us. What we need is not a messiah we can trust to deliver us by his work, but a servant who will lead us in the work we ourselves need to do to lift our nation from the ditch. Chilima’s full embrace of the hero-worship and messianic complexes on which the presidencies of other parties are built is a major red flag. It is this messianic complex that fills all our presidents with the hubris to take our tax-funded resources and use them for personal enrichment or for political party functions.
Will he tell us how much of our collective taxes he spent on the launch of his political party, since we already know that he engaged dozens of state security personnel at the function? Our political leaders’ refusal and failure to separate state resources from party functions, which is arguably the one thing that fuels corruption and theft more than any other practice, is a culture Chilima has fully embraced. The flag flies red here.
5. Saulos is sailing towards transformation in a rat ship
There are people in prominent roles in Chilima’s coterie we Malawians have a bone to pick with. The Kaliatis, Masangwi’s, Callistas, and such are all names that have the stench of abuses of power and public office in their resumés. We have not forgotten that Kaliati lied to the whole nation about the death of Bingu and played a key role in a concerted effort to block a constitutional and peaceful transition of power. She put the peace of an entire country in peril for selfish interests.
We have not forgotten that Callista went gallivanting across the nation heaping verbal abuse against Malawians who dared complain about their suffering during her late husband’s second term, and she sat contentedly at his side and showed no solidarity with Malawians as he ordered police to shoot them down on July 20, 2011. As for Masangwi, he has an ongoing case of his own to answer and his innocence is far from established.
UTM is a rat ship, and it is a major red flag that Chilima is inviting us to board this ship and sail towards transformation with him before he has even said or done anything about the fact that those currently steering the ship have never made amends about their record of betrayal of public trust. We want transformation, but not the kind led by rats, and we want it to be united, but not with rats, so if Chilima isn’t a rat or isn’t the Pied Piper playing a tune that the rats are comfortable dancing to, why is he so comfortable among them?Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :