Hon. Folks, while the Constitution allows for a maximum of two consecutive five-year terms for the President, it is apparent that in DPP there are some who do not think APM deserves another term.
Ordinarily, political parties would want to take advantage of incumbency by giving a sitting President unhindered opportunity to stand again on the party ticket. More so when the incumbent is both proprietor and president of the party as is the case with all parties in Malawi except MCP.
Interestingly, even MCP has either amended or is in the process of amending its constitution to provide for a smooth sail at the party convention of a sitting president with another term to serve.
In the case of DPP, opposition to APM’s second term started within his own family when his sister-in-law, Callista, openly endorsed youthful Vice-President Saulos Chilima, 45, as DPP’s torch-bearer in the 2019 presidential race.
Her bombshell was least expected. It really sounded like “fake news” until Callista herself confirmed on record that indeed it’s her conviction that a Chilima take-over of DPP in 2019 is the best thing that can happen not only to the party but also to Malawi as a whole.
Interestingly, Callista isn’t alone. Other party cadres, including national youth director Louis Ngalande and MP Bon Kalindo, also think APM should indeed rethink contesting again on the grounds of age. He will be celebrating his 79th birthday two months after the 2019 tripartite elections.
It appears for a while DPP was out of practice, not knowing how best to react. There were tell-tale signs of a rift within the Mutharika family when APM and other family members attended a Bingu memorial in Thyolo on April 8. Conspicuously missing at the function was Callista, Bingu’s widow.
First to react on the call for APM to pass on the baton to the Vice-President was the president’s publicist Ngeme Kalilani who, in a measured way, condemned Callista, saying she could have shared her sentiments with APM instead of going public. He also dismissed the old age argument, saying APM will seek a second term next year.
But this week DPP mounted an offensive, castigating Callista and trashing the age-matters campaign at three meetings—one held in Mzuzu on Wednesday and two held in Lilongwe on Thursday. Probably the most controversial one is a press conference held by DPP women Wednesday morning which targeted Callista because she is one of them, a woman. They want her to shut up or have them to contend with, really? What became of the right to freedom of expression?
Should he contest and win, APM will be 84 by the end of his second and last term. Is that too old? Interestingly, some voices outside DPP who have also joined the ‘age-matters’ campaign, argue that leading Malawi out of poverty is such an arduous task that requires youthful stamina and agility.
My take is that this is fallacious. If it were not so, the world would have been picking its leaders from splinters or, better still, boxers. Of course, the toast of the town, Chilima, equally fits the billing. He works out, plays basket ball and, at times, hits the road cycling. But I’d like to believe that it’s the quality of his leadership, not the greatness of his body that people have fallen for.
Getting Malawi out of poverty isn’t burning belly fat in the gym. It requires leadership with character, integrity and, of course, good education. Age may matter when it leads to senile dementia but if youthful Paul Kagame is a celebrated transformative leader, let’s not forget that Nelson Mandela was a world-class leader despite his old age.
History has just as many successful elderly leaders as it has youthful ones. Conversely, there have also been old and young “morons” in equal measure.
Callista’s concern with APM’s win next year was not age per se. She talked of beats in DPP taking advantage of APM’s old age to ransack public coffers and thwart the agenda of poverty reduction.
Those who demonise Callista for putting on the spot APM’s age should at least pat her on the back for speaking out against those who take advantage of their proximity to the President to amass wealth by hook or crook.
They are indeed “beasts” and we need a President who can vigorously fight them, the John Magufuli style, to lead us next year. na