- Chilima should break silence
- Had talks with Callista before she went public
Paramount Ngolongoliwa has disclosed that a week before former first lady Callista Mutharika came out in public to urge President Peter Mutharika to step aside and pave the way for Vice-President Saulos Chilima as a presidential candidate in the 2019 polls, he had talks with her.
Ngolongoliwa, in the interview at his Mtunda Wosema headquarters in Thyolo yesterday, said he is personally in support of a Mutharika-Chilima pair. Ngolongoliwa is one chief close to the President.
The Lhomwe Paramount Chief disclosed the genesis of the presidential candidate saga, explaining that he got a telephone call from a Mulhako wa Alhomwe senior member who President Mutharika sent to hear out Callista.
Ngolongoliwa said President Mutharika apparently got to know that the former first lady had some issues and sent this senior member to go and reason with her not to do something bad.
“As this member was having a meeting with the former first lady, I am told she complained to him that she was not being taken care of and that many other members who fought for the DPP were being sidelined.
“They were getting nowhere with their discussions, and this senior member decided that I intervene. He called me and they put the phone on loud speaker and the three of us were now discussing,” Ngolongoliwa said.
The Paramount Chief said Callista put her foot down that President Mutharika must step down and pave the way for Chilima, and she warned that she would do anything to disrupt the party’s convention if Mutharika insists on contesting.
“Of course, she raised the same issues of old age, the party’s failure to look after her and other DPP members that fought for the party, and another issue I felt was a family issue about kusudzulidwa (freeing the widow from the matrimonial bond). Analysing the issues, I felt it was something we could not have continued discussing over the phone.
“I asked her that if she wanted, she should come to my home and she accepted. A week before she went public about the issue of the presidential candidate, she visited me and we discussed the issue at length,” Ngolongoliwa said.
He said she repeated the same issues that her in-law is too old for the office when he finishes this term and must pave the way for Chilima; that she and other party founders were not being taken care of; and the manner the family was handling the msudzulo issue.
“But I advised her that she was mixing up politics and family affairs. I told her there are family counsellors she can talk to on issues to do with the family issues. I told her to desist from commenting on politics or pointing fingers at members of a family she got married to.
“I asked her to seriously give the issues a second thought and that she should come back to me after making up her mind. She said she had understood and thanked me for what she called ‘good advice’. She left on the understanding that she would come back to me.
“But what do I hear next? She went public with the issue and I was just hearing that the issue is on social media and then on radios and newspapers,” explained Ngolongoliwa, adding it was something he did not expect.
The Paramount chief said he personally supports the Mutharika-Chilima pair for the 2019 elections, arguing that it is a good pair because Chilima knows it was Mutharika who chose and settled for him and likewise, Mutharika knows he made it with support from Chilima.
“If you remember well, I urged the President and his deputy during last year’s memorial service for the late president Bingu wa Mutharika at Ndata Farm not to allow people that have surrounded them to divide them.
“I repeatedly said this that they should not allow to be divided, but they must work together to develop Malawi. You always have bad people around and that is why Lucifer, an angel, was chased from heaven.
“This is what I exactly meant. I foresee this coming that some people are not always happy to see a good pair working together and yielding results. Malawi is developing and you can see that for yourself and, obviously, some people are not happy,” the Paramount chief said.
He, however, said Chilima was not helping matters by remaining silent on a matter that is directly centering on him, arguing that his silence would be misunderstood that he is in support of those pushing for his candidature.
“The Vice-President should have come out by now and told Malawians that he was not party to such calls. He should have come open and told Malawians that Mutharika is his father and he supports his candidacy,” Ngolongoliwa said.
He said if Chilima came out, this matter would have been closed long time ago.
Efforts to talk to Chilima or his press officer Pilirani Phiri to at least comment on fresh issues coming up proved futile yesterday as their mobile phones were unavailable.
Callista did not pick her mobile phone yesterday on several attempts when we wanted her to comment on issues Ngolongoliwa raised, but she is on record to have told us this week that she would only comment next month and was observing the unfolding developments.
Ngolongoliwa advised that parties to the matter must resolve this matter amicably, adding if Callista took the advice against blowing the issue, it would have been resolved internally.
He said as chiefs, they would keep observing the developments, but when necessary, they would not hesitate to intervene. He did not disclose how.
Callista bashed the governing DPP in an interview with Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) last Saturday, claiming there are beasts and thieves that surround President Mutharika and she said she was airing her views to protect her in-law.
She told Zodiak that Mutharika is turning 80 next year, when the nation will be going to the polls.
She said the President would be too old to carry on as he would be 84 or 85 at time of leaving office if he wins the polls in 2019, arguing it is normal that thinking capacity levels deteriorate as one gets older.
Her statement has shaken the political landscape, with State House accusing her of being disrespectful, top government officials, arguing that State affairs are not for babies while some governing DPP officials such as youth leader Louis Ngalande and legislator Bon Kalindo supporting Callista.
Both Kalindo and Ngalande have urged Mutharika to pave the way for Chilima, with Ngalande warning that the party was sitting on a time-bomb if Mutharika insisted to be the party’s torch-bearer. Yesterday he told a local radio station that during the run-up to the 2014 elections Mutharika had promised to serve only one term.
The former first lady earlier expressed her open support for Chilima to become DPP’s presidential candidate for the 2019 elections in a WhatsApp chat group of former legislators and Cabinet ministers. n