Newly formed United Transformation Movement (UTM) and governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday raided the Central and Southern regions both trying to woo the electorate ahead of the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
Vice-President Saulos Klaus Chilima (SKC), who in June severed ties with DPP and declared he will challenge his boss President Peter Mutharika in the next year’s presidential race, led UTM’s red army to Kasungu Municipality—about 127 kilometres north of his base in Lilongwe—after impromptu stopovers at Lumbadzi, Mponela and Madisi in Dowa.
On the other hand, DPP vice-president (South) Kondwani Nankhumwa painted Blantyre’s Bangwe Township blue as he addressed his maiden political rally in his new capacity. He drummed up support for Mutharika and DPP, urging Malawians to give the party another term to develop the country.
In his rally at Chankhanga School ground in Kasungu, Chilima was all praises for Malawi’s founding president Hastings Kamuzu Banda whom he touted for visionary leadership and spearheading infrastructure development after the country attained independence from Britain in 1964.
To rounds of applause from people who attended the rally in Kamuzu’s home district, the Vice-President said Kamuzu passionately put up durable infrastructure such as roads, railway between Blantyre and Lilongwe, buildings and the establishment of the capital city in Lilongwe.
Chilima, who defended his pledge to create one million jobs during the first year of his presidency if elected, also pledged that the UTM administration would upgrade Kasungu Teacher Training College into a university called Kamuzu University to train teachers and upgrade of Kasungu Municipality into a city council.
He said: “Kamuzu Banda had a great vision for the country. No one can oppose that he was a visionary leader… He constructed durable roads in the country.”
But while Chilima dwelled on waxing lyrical about Kamuzu, other speakers such as Foloma Mwale, a former Malawi Congress Party (MCP) district chairperson for Mchinji, attacked his former party, accusing it of being undemocratic.
But in a WhatsApp response to an enquiry from The Nation, MCP publicity secretary the Reverend Maurice Munthali argued that MCP has the most democratic party as it is governed by rules and policies which every member should comply with for a better running of the party.
He said people such as Mwale left MCP in exercise of their freedom of association.
In his address, Chilima also said his outfit will devise agricultural policies that will ensure farmers are spared exploitation. He also mentioned the need to develop cooperatives and “a farm input subsidy that benefits all regardless of political affiliation”.
In Blantyre, during a governing party rally televised on privately-owned Times Television for the first time, Nankhumwa, who is also Minister of Local Government and Rural Development and Mulanje Central legislator, urged the DPP faithful to remain united as the country moves towards next year’s elections.
He also distanced DPP from the political violence on the eve of UTM’s rally in Mangochi last week Sunday where two of the grouping’s vehicles were torched by unknown assailants.
Nankhumwa said he joined Mutharika in condemning political violence.
While visibly avoiding to mention UTM, he said: “We have heard that there have been incidences of political violence elsewhere. I would like to join President Arthur Peter Mutharika in condemning these acts of violence because I have always been a firm believer of issue-based politics without the use of violence.”
Nankhumwa cited some development projects the DPP administration has initiated, including the New Blantyre Water Supply Project that will see Blantyre Water Board (BWB) pumping water from Likhubula in Mulanje Mountain to improve water supply and complement the main water source at Walker’s Ferry on the Shire River.
Taking his turn, DPP regional governor (South) Charles Mchacha warned civil society organisations planning to hold anti-government demonstrations on September 7 against parading on the streets of Blantyre, questioning which constituency of Malawians they represent.
But reacting to Mchacha’s sentiments in separate interviews, Youth and Society (YAS) executive director Charles Kajoloweka and his Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) counterpart Gift Trapeze said no amount of threats or intimidation will weaken or stop them from exercising their rights.
Said Trapence: “He [Mchacha] doesn’t own Malawi. This is a constitutional right for Malawians and no one can deny Malawians to exercise that right. Malawians have the right to demonstrate anywhere in Malawi.”
During the rally, Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi, like his boss Mutharika previously, also dismissed Chilima’s pledge of one million jobs as not practical.
But Chilima maintained the pledge is practical and described his critics as lacking ambition and vision; hence, they see it as not doable.
While DPP’s rally was televised on Times Television, the one for Chilima and UTM was beamed live on Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS). UTM’s previous launches in Lilongwe, Blantyre, Mzuzu and Mangochi were aired live on both Times and ZBS as well as Mibawa Television.