Hon Folks, I’ve no doubt in my mind that quitting DPP is the best thing Vice-President Saulos Chilima has done. He wasn’t welcome in the first place, having been sidelined even for the many party executive positions that were allocated by appointment.
It’s also not surprising that tension and acrimony ensued when calls for Chilima to take over the baton from APM came from within the upper echelons of the DPP itself. It came as a shock to those who won’t brook any threat to APM’s chances to stand again on the DPP ticket in the 2019 presidential race.
Not that they care so much for APM as they worry for themselves. If APM were to lose at the convention and Chilima went all the way to win the presidential race, it would’ve marked the end of the road for some, if not many, of them.
Why would a candidate branded as progressive and agile, risk loss of hearts and minds by surrounding himself with the team that is associated with failure?
There’s no denying that the mediocrity that has rocked national development and improved living standards of Malawians in the 24 years of multiparty government is due to state capture by well-connected crooks who take up government jobs and businesses beyond their levels of competence for the purpose of self-enrichment.
Such people would defend with their lives any threat to the status quo even if the change is obviously for the good of the country. The hushed contest for the presidency in DPP was meant for Chilima to lose by hook or by crook.
I also shudder to imagine what the end game would be if the DPP cadres who spewed out vitriol at APM’s campaign rallies, came face-to-face with their SKC beret-clad nemeses in the Chilima Movement; would they hug or hurt each another?
Throughout the multiparty history in Malawi, Vice-Presidents have ended up being isolated from the party, publicly humiliated and, in some cases, slapped with politically-motivated treason charges. In contrast, Chilima bows out with pomp and dignity, embraced by a DPP following from the NGC down to the grassroots.
While charting way forward won’t be easy for Chilima, uniting the pro-Chilima and pro-APM factions within DPP won’t be easy either for APM. There shall be trust issues. More importantly, the party should learn to accept that the 36.4 percent support base the APM/Chilima ticket garnered in 2014 elections, assuming it remained intact all along, is now split into two smaller parts.
Simply put, by walking out on DPP, Chilima has weakened the already narrow support base for APM, 11 months before elections. Rebuilding it amid mounting opposition campaign, incessant electricity blackouts and when Malawi is ranked third poorest in the world, only better that two war-torn countries—Burundi and South Sudan—won’t be a walk in the park.
That said, it’s Chilima’s parting shot that I shall always cherish as a citizen and taxpayer. The Vice-President bemoaned rampant corruption in government, echoing what he’d said at a Church function in Ntchisi the previous week.
Like most of us, Chilima’s sees the opulence displayed by the politically connected folks who live a life way beyond their means. Anywhere else in the world, such lifestyles signal the prevalence of corruption and followed up close and arrested if a case for fraud, corruption or money laundering is established.
In Malawi, the story is different. Transparency International, Afrobarometer and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, using credible research tools, have measured corruption and reported a consistently high prevalence record.
European Union, the United Kingdom, Germany and other donors maintain a freeze on budgetary support which, in good times, constituted as much as 40 percent of the recurrent budget, citing rampant corruption as the reason.
Development partners have also gone to the extent of disbursing more of their aid through off-budget channels, cringing at the mention of Account Number One which they see as a “leaking bucket”. They argue: which sane person will use such a bucket for drawing water?
Interestingly, the rampant corruption which is of great concern to the donors, tax-payer, civil society and the opposition is fake news in the eyes of APM, who has publicly denied its existence not once, not twice but several times over, arguing it’s a mere construct of the media hell-bent to tarnish the image of his government.
Consequently, in this year’s budget, government has focused on funding the procurement of Integrated Finance Management System (Ifmis). As for addressing the human factor in combating graft, focus has as usual been in allocating some funds to Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB), which remains in shape, form and mandate as the same institution that has failed to decisively tackle high level corruption since the days of Muluzi.