Saulos Chilima is the change candidate, at least, that’s what he says. Handsome, polished and eloquent, he also comes across a breath of fresh air in an otherwise toxic arena dominated by old faces that have become hashtags for our misery and stagnation.
But Saulos looks different; talks differently and promises a different tomorrow. Well, until some old picture of Saulos donning UDF regalia standing next to late Dumbo Lemani resurfaces, and your memory rework the mathematics that he is probably in his third party, you’d think being young doesn’t make one a recycled politician.
Nonetheless, in this election, at this moment, Saulos, a darling of the media, has been trailblazing as the candidate blistering with ideas. His campaign has been more robust and colourful—we will get the answers of financing later—who wants to ask or hear anyway?
So yes, Saulos resonates with the people. And to be fair, he has worked hard canvassing for every vote than any candidate, crisscrossing the country—dare me say—even beyond, to ensure he bags next May’s vote. Who will really begrudge him if he triumphs?
But this week, as this writer covered Saulos’s press briefing at the majestic Bingu International Convention Centre, I just couldn’t escape some questions about Saulos.
First, here was the candidate for change, here at the expensive venue, yet to declare the source of his funding—a constant ask by those seeking to see the backside of the toxic relationship between corruption in the country and political financing—read cashgate to satisfy your puzzlement on what the heck I am referring to.
And you didn’t have to be Teresa Ndanga—she who speaks on behalf of the fourth estate—to wonder what in the world was the candidate for change thinking by electing to address the press in an environment Ndanga described as a press rally.
It was a throwback to the days when journalists were harassed for asking questions; heckled or even beaten by party zealots. Of course none of this happened at Chilima’s rally but that’s because Chilima is still enjoying media honeymoon and imagine if he were president of the country and the assembled press team wanted to ask serious questions like—mmmmh the K145 million question President Peter Mutharika hasn’t allowed the free press to ask?
What would have happened? So, what kind of change is this? Whats the difference with the grandparents lording us? Sorry, probably I am just being silly, but you get the point.
And the sight of women and youths on a productive day abandoning productive labour to dance and cheer someone seeking to change the old ways—yes—reminded us: the more things change, the more they remain the same.
But maybe Chilima will abandon some of these archaic traditions once in office. Maybe he knows that in this country, you have to play fool first before you win the vote and that indulging all these long standing destructive tendencies, at least for now, is part of the overall strategy. Maybe, the end justifies the means.
But wait a minute, let’s talk about the means. Why is Saulos, as he is bidding for office, while rebuking his former party and boss for alleged worse crimes such as corruption and nepotism, still clinging to the office of the Vice-president to which he was sponsored by the same corrupt DPP?
Look folks, the office of the Vice-presidency—again in whose capacity Chilima condemned the diabolic violence of recent past (which we agree has mostly been orchestrated by DPP folks), why is Chilima maintaining the office of the Vice presidency was a political insurance?
Bar the need to teach ruling parties a lesson to stop messing up with the office of the Vice President, as he preaches more and more about servant leadership or transformation, at times it just dawns on you that the fact that he continues receiving a salary for not really doing any work must be questionable judgment! But as he spoke of political alliances, the realisation that the possible partners out there are just the same old faces, same old parties that have robbed the country’s destiny, one could not help but meet a melancholy realization, that change will not come so easily—not just by outbursts or by wishes, but real actual work regardless of who wins in May.