Power play in the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) reached another level in Lilongwe yesterday when 46 of the party’s 86 legislators endorsed President Peter Mutharika while scores of college students drummed up support for Vice-President Saulos Chilima.
Chilima was presiding over the opening of an NBS Bank private banking suite at Presidential Villas whereas DPP legislators, including Cabinet ministers, gathered at the Golden Peacock Hotel. The two venues, situated along the Presidential Drive to Mutharika’s official residence of Kamuzu Palace, are a stone’s throw of each other.
At the villas, about 500 supporters largely clad in DPP regalia, lined up some 30 metres to the venue. They danced and sang before swarming Chilima’s motorcade as it arrived.
They were overheard chanting: “Chilima ndi pwepwete! Enawa ndi mavenda! [Chilima is the real deal]. Chilima ndi Boma; sangayende yekha, ali ndi ife [Chilima is government; he will never walk alone].”
The group further declared that Bunda College of Agriculture, a constituent college of the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar), was behind Chilima.
During the function shunned by most senior government officials, each time Chilima’s name was mentioned in the salutations, the youth erupted into lively “Boma! Boma! Boma!” chants.
On the other hand, at Golden Peacock Hotel, legislators from the same party were proclaiming “Ayimanso! Ayimanso! [APM will again lead DPP]” as they took turns to wax lyrical of Mutharika.
The speakers included Salima South MP Uladi Mussa who recently joined DPP from the opposition People’s Party (PP) where he was acting president and a long time critic of Mutharika’s leadership.
The DPP back-benchers’ chairperson, MP for Blantyre City South East Victor White Mbewe, said there was ample evidence that the DPP legislators wholeheartedly prefer Mutharika as the one to lead DPP into the polls next year.
He said DPP members holding contrary views are causing confusion and do not wish the party well.
Conspicuously missing at the gathering were Patricia Kaliati (Mulanje West), Noel Masangwi (Blantyre City East), Bon Kalindo (Mulanje South) and Allan Ngumuya (Blantyre City South) legislators.
The absentees have come out in the open to support a new view that for the DPP to win, the aged Mutharika, 79, should pave the way for the youthful Chilima, aged 45, in next year’s elections.
Mutharika has since declared he will seek re-election.
Chilima, on the other hand, has not openly said anything on the ‘hot potato’ issue. However, yesterday, he came close to doing just that.
When a journalist wondered why many singing supporters were present with him, Chilima said the people were politicians and had a right to be at a bank function because politicians also undertake banking transactions.