Vice-President (VP) Saulos Chilima on Tuesday moved to quell suggestions that he is being sidelined in government, saying in a statement yesterday that his boss, President Peter Mutharika, appropriately delegates him.
However, two prominent political analysts from Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi (Unima), have said the VP’s explanation is aimed at clearing that he is neither complaining nor worried about his relationship with the President.
In a statement issued by his press office, Chilima said he finds reports that the President does not delegate him enough and instead opts for Cabinet ministers as unfortunate and premised on hearsay intended to spread mischief and spark disaffection in the cordial relationship that he and his boss enjoy.
Chilima cited a number of foreign assignments where he was delegated by the President, including his maiden trip as VP in August 2014 to Israel and the recent one to the United States of America.
Further, the statement states that Chilima also has other responsibilities assigned to him by the President, including chairing the Public Service Reforms Commission, making him the busiest Vice-President Malawi has ever had in recent years.
Chilima also said in the wake of austerity measures that the President is championing, it is not economically prudent to expect the Vice-President to be always delegated in the event that the President is not travelling.
“The logistics for the Vice-President’s trip involves a lot and consumes more financial resources, and therefore, it would not be wise for the public to always expect that when His Excellency the President is not travelling then the Vice-President should travel because doing so would be defeating the very same purpose of austerity measures which the government is embarking on,” said the statement.
But political analyst Boniface Dulani of the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College dismissed the explanation of austerity measures, saying it does not add up because sometimes more than one minister has ever been delegated instead of the VP.
Dulani, however, said Chilima should be given the benefit of the doubt and his clarifications should be taken at face value.
On his part, Mustapha Hussein, also of Chancellor College said it is not a surprise that the VP has come out strongly against the sidelining claims as it is important for him to appear not to be complaining.
He said: “The issue is that in politics perceptions matter and the public has perceived or has noted some areas where the Vice-President was expected to take a role, the duties have been given to somebody else.”
But for some Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) insiders, the issue is not about the VP not being delegated, it is about the party not giving Chilima the political space to actively participate in the party’s affairs.
A DPP national governing council (NGC) member said when the position of DPP VP for the Central Region fell vacant with the departure of Hetherwick Ntaba, there was expectation that giving that position to Chilima would be a natural way of bringing him into the party’s active fold, but it never materialised.
But in a telephone interview yesterday, DPP secretary general Eclain Kudontoni said Chilima could not be appointed as vice-president for Central Region after Ntaba left because his native Ntcheu District falls in the Eastern Region in terms of DPP structures.
However, the party has appointed Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Bright Msaka as vice-president for the Eastern Region.
When asked about when Msaka’s appointment was made, Kudontoni said: “Just know that the VP East is Bright Msaka.” n