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Peter Mutharika, Saulos Chilima crisis deepens

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Divisions in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leadership contest over who represents it in next year’s elections have deepened.

On one hand, President Peter Mutharika recently got a political boost when he courted students from private and public universities and colleges. Representatives of DPP wings at Chancellor College, The Polytechnic, College of Medicine [all University of Malawi constituent colleges], Domasi college of Education and Malawi University of Science and Technology, among others, on Sunday endorsed him during a luncheon at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre.

However, the Sanjika event came under scrutiny, with social commentators condemning Mutharika for buying beer for students.

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Writing on his Facebook page, social commentator Henry Kachaje questioned Mutharika’s reasoning in giving university students beer at the State House.

“A university professor from the famed Yale University-turned-President decides to host Malawian university students from various institutions and gets them drunk at State House? Did he check the ages of the students before giving them that cheap beer? Most of the students get selected at ages 15/16 [years, and] there is a high probability that half of them were below the age of 18,” he said.

Apart from the students, Mutharika also got the endorsement of over 50 lawmakers out of 86 DPP Members of Parliament this week.

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On the other hand, Chilima’s movement seems to be gaining ground in the rank and file of the party as the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections fast approach. Thursday, another group of students— called Concerned Students from Public Universities — emerged and distanced itself from the Sanjika meeting.

A statement released yesterday, signed by their spokesperson Constantine Gerald, says the students are not party to the Sanjika endorsement, arguing that university education has suffered a lot in Mutharika’s era.

“How can a normal intellectual cheer a leader who raped their own education system? We have been victims of tremendous fee hikes engineered by the same leader whom some unreasonable intellectuals, under the influence of bribery, commended,” reads the statement in part.

This comes after the Sanjika group of students took a swipe at Vice-President Saulosi Chilima, accusing him of masterminding calls against President Mutharika.

In a letter addressed to Chilima, entitled ‘An Epistle to Chilima’, the students point to a number of instances, including the njoka saweta remarks that Chilima made two years ago, as some of the tactics he has been employing to become president.

They also condemned him for accepting to read a letter of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, in which it called on Malawians to demonstrate against the DPP government.

“Your honour, when you read the pastoral letter in church, people recall you added your own words that urged [people] to demonstrate not on Facebook but on the streets,” reads the letter.

The Daily Times could not independently verify the authenticity of the signatures on the letter as one of the signatories Michael Fatch— who signed as DPP vice president for The Poly Wing— cut the line when we asked him to confirm whether he was party to the write-up.

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