IN 2014, Peter Mutharika took the nation by surprise when he—of all the people in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)—chose Saulos Chilima to be his bedfellow in the 2014 elections.
Saulos, too, shocked many when he left a dream and plush job at Airtel to join a party that two years previously had been the antithesis of democracy, and its chances of winning looked slim.
We all wondered what had gone into the young man’s head to leave such a job and attach himself to a band of crooks better known for terrorism, corruption and arrogance. Peter’s proximate decision to woo Saulos was either to win the youth vote or for Saulos to bring freshness to the haggard, craggy and stony faces that are replete in the DPP.
Luckily—whether it was down to his youthful charm or something else—Saulos became citizen number two and Peter the president. The romance between Peter and Saulos started on a very good note.
Saulos was that youthful bustling vice president who compensated for his boss’ drowsiness and reclined approach to matters. While it took Peter about two months to appoint a full cabinet, Saulos was up and running with his muchtouted public service reforms.
But, just like it were with Bakili Muluzi and Justin Malewezi, Bingu wa Mutharika and Cassim Chilumpha, Bingu and Joyce Banda, Banda and Khumbo Kachali, the signs have been all over the place that Peter and Saulos are now strange bedfellows. It seems there is a curious curse of presidents and their deputies.
The past two years have seen Saulos playing in the background and when he decides to open up, the message has been encrypted in metaphors. Ironically, the same two years that Saulos has been playing subtle, Peter’s political swagger has sagged. With serial blunders to his name, Peter’s good deeds havebeen episodic and this has made him a man seeking political mercy, forgiveness and redemption.
The afrobarometer survey, too, dealt a huge blow to Peter’s leadership popularity. This was the same Afrobarometer that correctly predicted Peter’s victory in 2014 even when many thought he was an outsider being a leader of a party that terrorised citizens and took Malawi to the precipice.
In public, Peter might cut a brave and confident look but inside he is a man shaking with the thought of the possibility of being voted out of power in the next polls. Peter needs to correct the situation and he needs to do so as soon as yesterday.
Apart from cleaning up the mess his leadership has created, Peter also has in his in-tray party issues to sort out. One of the pressing issues is the broken love between him and his deputy Saulos.
Credible word has it that in the DPP, some people feel they are more blue than Saulos who, before 2014, had no attachment to the party. Others in the DPP are very afraid that in the event that Peter retains Saulos as running mate in 2019 when Peter will be 79 and very old and, God forbid, there is a repeat of April 2012, some of the dirty of the party will come to the fore.
So, Peter, being a very impressionable person listens to those in the party that are apprehensive of the possibility of having Saulos. But Peter should be a very confused man and I do not envy him. Here is a 77-yearold man who on one hand has a smart, bubbly and hardworking
young man who has the goodwill of people regardless of political affiliation, and on the other hand a gang of crooks that is desperate to kick out the smart guy so that their heinous deeds are forever veiled.
At Biwi on Monday, Peter tried to perform a stunt to hoodwink us that he and Saulos are still enjoying honeymoon romance. But we know there is no love lost between the two. It will take more than a tap on the shoulder or a declaration of a father-son relationship to convince us that the two are still buddy-buddies.
Perhaps, after realising that he is sitting on a political quicksand, Peter has finally come to his senses and realised that he needs Saulos more than some of the bandits in the party. DPP’s only serious rival, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), seems to have finally realised that it will never win an election by confining itself to the Central Region bedroom.
The capture of Sidik Mia—as basic as he is—means some pockets of votes from the Lower Shire and the Eastern Region. MCP will go to the next polls stronger than it did the previous time. So DPP has a very serious rival now and Peter and his party have realised it. Time is not on Peter’s side. He must act quickly and must be steadfast in his decision.
The DPP—say this louder—does not have attractive leaders in its ranks who can partner Peter in the next polls. Peter has a simple task though of choosing his next running mate. All he needs to do is go back to the archives and remember what helped him in 2014, otherwise let us leave this to Peter and his son.
MIA AND POLITICAL PROSTITUTION
IT is not easy to trust Sidik Mia politically. His loyalty to a political party is always suspicious. One day he is yellow, the other day he is blue, then orange and now he is green. Mia has had stints with all four top political parties in the country. On Saturday last week, when Mia announced his obvious joining of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), some party supporters went about in frenzy as if Mia is the missing charm for the MCP victory in 2019. On the other hand those who belong to the blue political divide tried to play down Mia’s move. Some even suggested it would tear the MCP apart. Obviously, MCP has now gotten a cash cow ahead of the 2019 polls. He might as well bring some votes for the party that has otherwise been dead in the Southern Region. They say there are no permanent allies or foes in politics. This, to me, is a lame justification of the stinking culture of political harlotry of which Mia is the very embodiment. One of the reasons this country has failed to progress is that we do not have principled politicians who stand for a particular belief. Many, if not all of them, are opportunists who love either power or where the purse is. When Bingu wa Mutharika sold United Democratic Front a dummy, Mia was one of the first to go with Bingu. Before Bingu’s body grew cold that April of 2012, Mia was already with Joyce Banda and when it was clear that Joyce Banda had lost her political halo and was facing imminent defeat, Mia abandoned her and chose some sabbatical. Now the MCP must not cheat itself that they have finally gotten Mia for good. No! Mia is a rolling stone and the term loyalty just does not exist in his lexicon. Let us all stand up and clap hands for our political whores.