Vice-President Saulos Chilima on Friday appeared on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) HARDtalk programme where he was interviewed by anchor, Zeinab Badawi in which among other things he stated that he wants to contest for the 2019 presidential election to “save the country from destruction and corruption.”
The vice president broke ranks with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in June when he quit the party citing unchecked corruption and nepotism. He is leading the newly formed United Transformation Movement (UTM).
The BBC’s journalist pressed Chilima to explain why he is running against incumbent Peter Mutharika, the very man he stood with in 2014 on joint presidential ticket as his running mate.
“Times change,” said Chilima a former business executive turned politician.
“First of all it’s a constitutional right in Malawi for any person above 35 years who has got the right qualifications [to contest the presidency],” said Chilima.
Badawi in her no holds barred probing style, quizzed: “ I am not saying you’re not fit. Why have you turned against Peter Mutharika?”
Responding, Chilima said: “I would like to exercise my constitutional rights and contest the office of the president.”
Chilima gave the BBC an interview in London where he is on a private visit.
SKC refuses to resign
Chilima was asked to comment on calls by some people that he should resign as vice president a call which was first sounded by DPP administration which rebuked him for, among other things, criticising a government he is part of and for getting involved in a different political grouping.
The Vice-President, promoted as SKC, initials for his full name Saulos Klaus Chilima, said the office is protected by the Constitution.
“The vice president’s office is a delegated office constitutionally. So as I sit here and when I get back home I still go to the office and report for duties. I am still in that office,” he said.
Chilima said he responds to enquiries from different organisations.
“The office has not been vacated. I am available [for] meetings and guidance,” SKC said.
“I have a contract which runs up to May 2019 [when the elections are due].”
He was asked if he meets President Mutharika after dumping the ruling party, but he said they have not met since June. Asked if Mutharika has asked him to resign, Chilima also said the President has not made the call.
Chilima also said he is not using government money to run UTM activities.
“It is not tax payers’ money,” he stressed.
In 2005, former president and founder of DPP Bingu wa Mutharika also voluntarily dumped the United Democratic Front (UDF) which sponsored his presidential ticket in the 2004 General Elections and formed DPP. However, he did not resign as Head of State. His vice-president then, Cassim Chilumpha, remained UDF.
Immediate past president Joyce Banda also formed People’s Party (PP) in 2011 after being expelled from DPP, but continued to serve as vice-president.
Stop the rot
BBC asked Chilima to comment on his anti-corruption stance.
“Speaking against corruption , speaking against nepotism is speaking against the evils. I will disagree any assertion that I am speaking against government. It is not government policy to promote corruption,” said SKC.
“Over the four years I have spoken against corruption at different times. I am the champion of the construction sector initiative back home. I have rebuked poor workmanship. I have spoken against poor ethics when I presented a public lecture on moral decadence at the University of Malawi. These, I was speaking when I was active in the government affairs,” he said.
Chilima said his efforts to advise government on corruption had fallen on deaf ears.
Grilled by Badawi that if corruption in Malawi is really as bad as Chilima describes, why the Vice-President didn’t use his influence to stop it.
“You see, first is, you engage and say there is a problem. Stopping it, means that, when you make recommendations it is taken on board. I am not a final decision maker, I can only make a recommendation,” he said.
He added: “Corruption story in Malawi is an interesting one. Nobody disagrees that there is corruption. What the issue is, are we really seriously fighting corruption. The fight is not at the level that we should be.”
Chilima challenged responsible authorities to investigate and prosecute corruption unselectively.
“ There are cases of corruption that are not being pursued because people are being shielded,” he said.
During the interview Chilima further maintained he would create one million jobs in his first year of office.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :