The Chilima question

All eyes are on Saulos Klaus Chilima now. Whether he planned for this or he has been thrown to the deep end by circumstances beyond his control, namely, an unsolicited manoeuvre by former first lady Callista Mutharika, its now all beside the point.

Be in Chilima’s shoes and ponder: How do you negotiate a political puzzle as baffling as this one?

For starters, much of what Calista Mutharika is saying, regardless of her motivation, is true. It’s true we’ve but to help Callista, let’s add: ‘an old president who has also proved to be uninspiring and out of touch with reality for a bigger part of his first-term.

As he advances in age, there is little hope that he can suddenly summon some inner strength to start inspiring the country to a new vision. This, said by a member of family, has sent shocking waves across the ruling DPP.

Again, whatever Callista has said is something Malawians—honest, country-loving citizens whose lives dont depend on any political allegiances, who pay tax honestly despite harships—have been saying for a long time. They say it in minibuses, bars, restraunts, maize fields, homes and even on their own when grumbling about their frustrations at living in a nation that is stagnant.

Not that all our woes are a creation of the Peter Mutharika’s presidency. Not that there is nothing positive Mutharika has done in his tenure, either. Taking either extreme position will be disengenious.

Mutharika’s soft rule means our democracy has gained.  Because he doesnt believe in belicose; he hasnt jailed his rivals or murdered anyone as often the case on this continent. He has saved some of our taxes by travelling less, has a lean Cabinet, and truth be told, we’ve not seen a wealth accumulation or asset stripping on grand scale by Mutharika himself. Thanks Peter. But that’s as far as one goes.

Because of APM’s ineptude; perception and reality that corruption is on the increase is rife. Mutharika has undermined the fight against corruption actively and repeatedly by defending cronies accused of corruption, and has solidly rejected attempts to reform the governance institutions responsible for the fight against corruption—renagading on both campaign promises and many scholarly articles he authored during his illustrious career.

Clear evidence that those of us who have repeatedly said this are not making up facts or we’re mercinaries sent by Mutharika’s enemies, can be seen in the last opinion poll held by respectable pollster Afrobarometer, which warned that DPP might be falling on its sword. A few months later, opposition MCP trounced DPP in a major by-election for House and ward councillor seats.

But all this is beside the point, the point is Malawians want change. And whether the numbers demanding that change all view Saulos Chilima as the vehicle for that change is a totally different science. Therefore, Callista’ s words should be examined  more carefully by Chilima’s strategists.

Chilima, unfortunately, has no luxury of time. It’s stick or twist. He now has to comment on the going-ons in the party. If he remains quiet, the DPP mainstream will regard his silence as tacit approval of the mini revolution going on; hence condemn him out of the party, but at the same time, he will lose any political capital he has gained by the current storm.

Yet, all along, Chilima’s position in any future DPP government has been subject to suspicion and speculation. So, will Chilima stick or twist? Stick will be to live his fate in the hands of the unknown and pray that the calls for his leadership takeover will be welcomed positively by Mutharika as a sign that the country wants Chilima groomed for the presidency whether now or in the future.

Twist, however, means Chilima accepts that either he fights to death now or allow someone to shoot him in the back when he is no longer watching. How just do you save such a puzzle when you are supposed to be the uncut rough political diamond the former corporate executive is made to be. Or in the very least, not alone as those who have come out in his support have claimed.

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