Malawi’s government reduced Vice-President Saulos Chilima’s security detail, including a security vehicle , days after he ditched the ruling party and declared his plans to run for president next year on the banner of his political movement called United Transformation Movement or UTM is what can be called history repeating itself.
During the UTM launch, Chilima, and his lieutenants who spoke before him, castigated the DPP-led government and its leadership, accusing them of high-level corruption, nepotism and sheer incompetence.
He pledged to put behind bars “all thieves” within 30 days of his presidency and that he would reverse most of DPP “inhuman’ policies, including the controversial quota system of selecting students to public universities.
The matter about the withdrawal of the VP’s security personnel has been widely trumpeted, especially on the social media where Chilima’s sympathizers have blamed the DPP government for the move. Many such commentators have called it an act of cowardice, saying the DPP is hell-bent on frustrating the “growing Chilima’s movement and UTM crusade”.
Whichever side of the fence one is standing, there is only one fact attached to all this, which is that it was bound happen. The complex nature of President-Vice relationship in Malawi is well documented. First multiparty President Bakili Muluzi fell out with his hitherto beloved Vice, Justin Malawezi, at the very end of his 10 year rule. so did the late President Bingu wa Mutharika with his Vice Dr. Cassim Chilumpha so early in his presidency, who he incarcerated on some trumped-up treason charges.
But the worst case scenario was that between President Bingu wa Mutharika and his Vice Joyce Banda between 2009 and 2012, when the former died in office.
Indeed, in 2009, President Bingu wa Mutharika defied all odds and chose Joyce Banda as his presidential running mate. This unprecedented choice had won the hearts of many people who believed in gender justice – the 50-50 women campaign which today is being trumped on legislators but quite on presidency.
The choice of a female presidential running mate won Mutharika much popularity and praise. The move was also seen to be in line with the National Gender Policy (Malawi Government, 2008), the Constitution of Malawi, the SADC Protocol on Gender (Southern African Development Community, 2008) and that of the African Union (2009).
Both Mutharika and his DPP won the elections resoundingly. Bingu wa Mutharika and Joyce Banda became President and Vice President, respectively.
For the first time in Malawi’s history, the country had a woman as Vice President, and hopes for having a woman President started to grow. But the relationship between the President and his Vice, Joyce Banda, deteriorated at an alarming speed. It is well documented that their relationship had become increasingly tense as the President’s desire to position his younger brother, Peter Mutharika, as the next president became obvious.
One political commentator observed that Joyce Banda “ceased to be useful, and now had to be cleared out of the way for Peter Mutharika”. Peter Mutharika had previously served as the Legal Advisor to the President and also served terms as Minister of Education and Minister of Foreign Affairs and so he was being earmarked to succeed his brother and assume the position of presidential candidate for the DPP in 2014.
But Joyce Banda was having none of that. Her close associates have revealed that on choosing her as running mate in the 2009 elections, Bingu wa Mutharika had promised her that she would succeed him at the end of his term in 2014.
When it was obvious the President had reneged on Joyce Banda taking over and that Peter Mutharika had become ‘heir apparent’, Joyce Banda bluntly refused to endorse the President’s young brother.
Joyce Banda’s resistance resulted in her dismissal from the position of DPP Vice President on December 12, 2010. Although she was ousted from the party, she continued to serve as Vice President of the Republic of Malawi, in accordance with the Constitution. However, with the deteriorating relationship and increased tension, the conditions were unfavorable for her to perform her duties to her full potential.
Comparatively, JB may have suffered extreme mental torture more than any other Vice President in the democratic Malawi. The DPP and President Bingu wa Mutharika publicly denigrated and humiliated her in a bid to completely silence her and force her to resign as state Vice President and pave way for the appointment of Peter Mutharika. Despite being a woman, President Mutharika and his DPP government had plotted to arrest Joyce Banda on trumped-up treason charges.
One of Malawi’s most prolific writers, the late Raphael Tenthani, wrote in one of his famous Muckracking columns in 2012 that Joyce Banda was “subjected to daily doses of derision at public rallies and on Malawi’s state airwaves”.
Noel Masangwi, senior DPP official and one of Bingu wa Mutharika’s closest confidantes then, publicly declared that “Malawi was not ready for a female president” in reference to Joyce Banda. The then First Lady, Callista Mutharika despised Joyce Banda, referring her as “wophika mandasi” (one who bakes fritters), in derisive reference to Joyce Banda’s involvement in women in small businesses.
The DPP government also wanted to enact legislation that would empower the President to fire a Vice President since in its current form, the Constitution does not provide for such powers.
The worst case scenario during that stormy relationship with Bingu was when in early October 2011, government withdrew most of her security detail from her official Mudi and Area 12 residences in Blantyre and Lilongwe, respectively, including security vehicles.
A few days after the withdrawal of state security, her Vice President’s official vehicle; a Mercedes Benz, registration number MG 2 was hit on the side she used seat at Kanengo in Lilongwe as she was returning from Kamuzu International Airport. Luckily, she survived because she had used a different vehicle on instructions from her remaining security.
So, there is nothing new about Chilima security personnel and vehicle being withdrawn. After all, the President is also a Mutharika. Ask Joyce Banda. Let the games begin!
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