Malawi’s Vice-President and president of the United Transformation Movement (UTM), Saulos Chilima and former president Joyce Banda met in Zomba on Saturday amid speculation that the two were working on a possible political working relationship between United Transformation Movement (UTM) and People’s Party (PP).
Eyewitnesses confided that Chilima’s motorcade was seen heading to Banda’s home at Domasi in Zomba on Saturday prior to the UTM rally he addressed at Gymkhana Club ground in Zomba City.
Yesterday, Banda refused to take questions on the said meeting with Chilima, but Office of the Vice-President spokesperson Pilirani Phiri confirmed the meeting.
He said: “The Vice-President met the former president just for a chat as you know he was holding a rally in Zomba on Saturday afternoon. It was basically a courtesy call on the former president at her residence in Zomba.”
But the Office of the Vice-President dismissed speculation that the meeting was meant to finalise a political working relationship.
During the Zomba rally, Chilima said Banda was supportive of UTM’s pledge to create one million jobs within the first 12 months in office if elected in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
He said: “We want to acknowledge the endorsement for the possibility to create a million jobs as made by the country’s former president Madam Joyce Banda. She shares a common vision with us. The former president is one of the positive thinking Malawians who believes that nothing is impossible.”
But in a telephone interview yesterday, Banda refused to commit herself to any talks of a possible alliance, insisting that her stand on one million jobs was based on promises her then governing PP made in its 2014 election manifesto.
She said: “The Right Honourable Chilima mentioned my name [at the rally] that I agree with him on the possibility of creating one million jobs in one year. This is because we also made a similar promise in our manifesto prior to the 2014 elections. When another journalist asked me the same question [about the possibility of creating one million jobs] a week ago, I responded that it was very possible.”
But Ernest Thindwa, a political science lecturer at Chancellor College—a constituent college of the University of Malawi said the meeting between Chilima and Banda was surprising because the two leaders do not have a history of any working relationship.
He did not rule out the possibility of an electoral alliance between UTM and PP.
Said Thindwa: “Perhaps what we are seeing is an indication of an alliance of some sort to be on the cards. However, we must bear in mind that in Malawi, alliances in politics are not necessarily based on common vision or policies. Parties usually come into alliances for political convenience.
“As at now, it would make a lot of sense if opposition parties came together to fight a common opponent. That would give them an edge over the party in power which has the incumbency advantage. Otherwise, history has it that most party leaders do not want to sacrifice their personal egos for the sake of the country’s progress.”
The heightened speculation about the meeting between Banda and Chilima comes after the UTM leadership said last week it was in discussion with an opposition coalition formed by political parties not represented in Parliament loosely called Tikonze Dziko Lathu Alliance to field one presidential candidate.
Ironically, the PP left the grouping last week but indicated it would consider rejoining the group at a later stage.
The grouping comprises, among others, the Alliance for Democracy (Aford), Assembly for Democracy and Development (ADD) of former vice-president Cassim Chilumpha and People’s Progressive Movement (PPM).