- Chilima spits fire in the wake of allegations of involvement in corruption
Spokesperson for the nine-member Tonse Alliance partners Kamuzu Chibambo on Saturday described an emergency meeting the alliance team had at Kamuzu Palace as a “serious one” and that members spoke their mind.
Chibambo, who is also president of People’s Transformation Party (Petra) said all alliance members attended the meeting, adding that discussions were very frank and members expressed themselves freely.
“Everyone was present and that goes to show the seriousness of the meeting,” he said.
But Chibambo refused to disclose the main agenda of the meeting and their outcome, saying a proper statement would be issued today. But a member of the team who did not want to be named confided in Weekend Nation that the meeting dwelt much on weaknesses of the alliance and how they can strengthen it.
He added that the partners gave their inputs, including the need for government to be consulting them on key issues.
Said the member: “It was a very serious meeting, but the focus was on how to make the alliance stronger because right now it is falling apart.”
Earlier in the day Vice-President Saulos Chilima sent a strong message to his supposed adversaries, saying they shouldn’t mistake his humility for stupidity and that he is ready to face them head-on.
The UTM Party president made the sentiments hours after the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) officers who were reportedly scheduled to interview him in relation to his alleged corrupt dealings with UK-based businessperson Zunneth Sattar failed to show up at his Area 43 residence in Lilongwe.
It was not immediately known why the officers failed to come, but UTM Party spokesperson Frank Mwenifumbo confirmed to the media about the scheduled interview.
Following the reports, party supporters clad in UTM regalia and other sympathisers thronged the Veep’s residence from as early as 8am.
On Tuesday this week, President Lazarus Chakwera announced that he had withheld all delegated duties to his deputy for his alleged corrupt dealings with Sattar.
The President also fired former Police Inspector General George Kainja and suspended State Residences chief of staff Prince Kapondamgaga as well as Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets (PPDA) board chairperson John Suzi-Banda for their alleged involvement in the Sattar alleged corrupt dealings.
But in a statement signed by the Office of the Vice-President director of communications Pilirani Phiri, the Vice-President denied allegations that he corruptly benefitted from Sattar who is under investigation on corruption charges.
Chilima also expressed frustration with the manner the ACB handled the matter.
Addressing hundreds of chanting supporters who gathered outside his house before he left for a meeting of Tonse Alliance partners at Kamuzu Palace, Chilima said he is aware of calls for him to speak out on the emerging issues, but said he will do so next week.
But without giving proper context, Chilima, who seemed in a jovial mood hinted that prior to the June 23 2020 court-sanctioned fresh presidential election, some quarters urged him to humble himself, which he did but that now some people want to take the gesture as foolishness.
Said Chilima: Let us all be patient. Every one of you should take their positions and do their job. A lot of people have been saying I am not opening up and that I need to address the white elephant in the room, my message is, I will speak next week.”
Political analyst and former lecturer at the University of Malawi Ernest Thindwa in an interview described Chilima’s outburst as a huge political statement with the potential to degenerate into a feud between UTM and MCP and perhaps an instinctive reaction to mounting pressure on the part of the UTM president.
Said Thindwa: “If it were not for accusations against him of his alleged involvement in corruption, he would not have made utterances. That notwithstanding, it does reveal suppressed grievances between and among Alliance partners which have now been ignited by the potential probe by ACB. A sense of having no more stake to protect may be driving the outburst.”
On his part, governance and political expert Makhumbo Munthali observed that statements that have been coming from the Veep in the past few days clearly show that he is not only bitter with ACB but also the President’s decision on him.
He added that Chilima’s implication in alleged corrupt dealings with Sattar have a negative impact on his political image.
In 2020 UTM and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and seven other political partners committed to work together and signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to support MCP leader as the presidential candidate with Chilima as running mate.
In the recent past a growing number of senior MCP officials have endorsed Chakwera’s candidacy in the 2025 presidential elections. They have also been resolute to make the party go solo in the 2025 elections thereby contravening what Chilima told a Tonse Alliance mega rally at Njamba Freedom Park in Blantyre, that they had agreed as Tonse Alliance members that the MCP president Chakwera would lead first (2020 to 2025) and then pass the baton to him beyond 2025.