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It is debate we must have

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Progressive Party (DPP) establishment is rattled.

Everyone is scampering for political safety as Hurricane Callista has attacked with the vengeance of the capricious gods.

In case you have just been parachuted into this Republic; the matter at hand is about Malawi waking up on Friday last week and being greeted by newspaper front pages, detailing former First Lady Callista Mutharika’s comment on a WhatsApp group in which she went straight at the throat of her in-law, President Peter Mutharika.

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In a leaked WhatApp message on a forum of former Cabinet ministers and MPs, Callista endorsed Vice President Saulos Chilima to run as candidate for DPP and not President Peter Mutharika in the 2019 elections.

She boldly said DPP must change leadership if it wants to win next year’s elections and, if they do not believe her, they should do a survey to ascertain this.

In response, DPP secretary general (SG) Gresselder wa Jeffrey said the former First Lady must behave or face the wrath of her own party.

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Gresselder advised that, if the former First lady has family problems, she must do so without involving the DPP.

The DPP SG even made a startling claim that Callista is hiding behind Chilima when it is her who wants power, adding that such moves failed in Zimbabwe where Grace Mugabe tried to no avail to succeed her husband, former president Robert Mugabe.

Unrepentant Callista has followed it up with a scathing attack on the people that have surrounded the President, saying he is a good man who is surrounded by selfish, corrupt people.

There is no question that Callista has gone for the jugular vein and the DPP establishment is struggling on how to cope with it.

It is very clear that DPP knew at some point before the 2019 elections, they would have to deal with Chilima, who the influential conservative arm of the party does not like.

It is very clear that the establishment already decided long time ago that Chilima is an outsider and will not be pairing with President Peter Mutharika, come 2019.

What they were hoping for was that Chilima would play ball by keeping quiet until March next year when the President would be required to present his nomination papers and be forced to name a running mate.

After that, so they hoped, Chilima would simply pick his pension cheque and disappear from the political scene to pave the way for the chosen one in DPP.

This was wishful thinking and it forms the core reason why DPP is now confused and running scared of the next ‘joker’ Chilima or, indeed, another ‘Callista’ might throw at them before the 2019 elections.

The strategy now is to try to contain the fire and that is why you hear the likes of Gresselder wa Jeffrey and Ben Phiri getting contrite and hinting on the fact that Chilima will still partner the President next year.

Chilima will be foolhardy to believe the gibberish unless it came direct from the mouth of the President himself and is in written form.

But the DPP will not have its cake and eat it at the same time. The party will not stop Malawians from discussing what kind of President they want. They will not dismiss Callista Mutharika because what she said is not about her.

Yes it is about the President but what is at stake is not just about the President. Yes it is Chilima whose name is in the fray but the issue at hand is more than about the Vice President

Rather, it is about the future of this country and what kind of leadership we need to have so that our station on the world map improves.

Let us face facts squarely in the eye.

The last four years have been a living hell for many honest hardworking Malawians. Nothing is working in this place and those who think otherwise should mention what is working and how it has improved the quality of life for the majority of Malawians.

The little that is happening is the same business as usual and it is no different from what was happening with previous governments.

2019 offers a real opportunity for possible change of course and Malawians must have a national conversation about what kind of leader is best suited to achieve the change we all desire.

The matter at hand certainly may be disparaging or disrespectful on the person of the President.

As a human being, I know for a fact that it is stressful but at the end of the day the President should ask himself whether it is still worth it at his advanced age.

He is just collateral damage to the debate we need to have.

Those that surround him will obviously encourage him to stay on because they have a stake in it and they have shamelessly linked their future to his.

They even see a chance of power to themselves beyond 2019 as they envisage taking advantage of an old man to abuse this country.

As for Chilima, the nation is waiting to hear him talk about his political future but it cannot wait forever.

I repeat, Malawians have a right to have a debate on what kind of leaders they want to have.

This is the context in which Hurricane Callista must be looked at.

Anything outside this frame is self serving by those who do not wish this country well.

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