Former first lady, Callista Mutharika, has declared that the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) cannot win the 2019 presidential elections if it features President Peter Mutharika as its candidate.
In a WhatsApp post on a forum of the Association of former Members of Parliament (MPs), the former first lady also throws her weight behind Vice-President Saulos Chilima, encouraging him to present himself as DPP presidential candidate.
“Honourable members, just to let you know that I, Callista Bingu wa Mutharika, is one member that is supporting and encouraging Right Honourable Saulos Chilima to represent DPP as a presidential candidate in 2019.
“Right now, I hear certain quarters are unhappy with my move and [are] planning to finish me [off]. Meanwhile, help me watch and see how they will finish me [off]. Chilima [is] our hope for a better Malawi,” she declares.
Chilima, who has kept his ambitions under wraps for sometime, is seen as a threat to some people in the party’s politburo but his popularity in the rank and file has grown in the last few years.
“If DPP wants to win, then it has to change the leadership. Let them do a survey if they want to find out the truth. Patsogolo ndi democracy,” she writes.
Chairperson of the WhatsApp forum for former MPs, Clement Stambuli, confirmed in an interview Thursday that Mutharika wrote the post
“I saw a posting where Madam Callista Bingu wa Mutharika was putting it to the notice of members that she is having threats from undisclosed sources for allegedly supporting the current veep as a [DPP] torch-bearer come 2019,” he said.
However, Stambuli played down fears that the alleged threats might gag forum members from commenting freely on political issues.
“They are not the kind of people that can be intimidated. It’s a grouping of leaders: former MPs, former Cabinet ministers, former speakers…,” he said.
Mutharika was non-committal when we contacted her on Wednesday and Thursday.
Personal Assistant to the Vice President, Pilirani Phiri, refused to comment on the matter.
But Mutharika’s sentiments have rubbed the DPP the wrong way.
DPP secretary general, Glesselder Jeffrey, said the former first lady must behave or face the wrath of her own party.
“If the former first lady has family issues, let her sort out those issues without dragging the DPP into them [issues]. If she does not respect herself, we shall not respect her. It failed in Zimbabwe (for a first lady to succeed a president) and it will fail in Malawi,” she said.
Jeffrey alleged that Mutharika is using Chilima’s name when, actually, she is the one who wants power.
“Our candidate is Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika (APM). Everyone in DPP, including Chilima, is supporting the President,” she said.
Quizzed to justify her claims that Chilima is not interested in the presidency, Jeffrey said Chilima does not have such ambitions.
“Saulos Chilima has not come to me to say that he will contest at the convention. Even if he were to do an underground campaign, I would know that some boys are doing something. Our candidate is APM, whether one likes it or not,” she said.
Chancellor College political analyst, Happy Kayuni, advised the former first lady to desist from commenting on political issues as other former first ladies have done.
“It’s very, very questionable and wrong [for this] to come from the first lady…we look up to them as mothers who should advise on issues of HIV and Aids, girl empowerment and not politics,” Kayuni said.
Repor ts of an uneasy relationship between APM and the former first lady have been making rounds for a while. Mutharika once appointed Callista as an adviser on safe motherhood but fired her soon after he wedded first lady Gertrude Mutharika.
There are also reports of bad blood between the President and his vice as some DPP operatives reportedly believe that Chilima is becoming more popular than his boss.