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Way to go, Saulos Chilima

Vice-President Saulos Chilima has taken a hardline against engineers working on construction of a dyke. Chilima openly took them on and demanded an explanation as to why they constructed a substandard dyke meant to protect families from floods.

But was his conversation with the engineers, a mere ‘foxhole conversation?” With his boss at all-time lows, in terms of popularity, was Chilima merely posturing to improve Peter Mutharika’s image before 2019, in much the same way an atheist might find religion worth embracing while fearing for his life in a foxhole?

Has Chilima become a great advocate for Mutharika because the next election is only less than 17 months away and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is desperate to regain its popularity?

We have a right to be skeptical

Of course, most of what Chilima said was very sensible and his anger was justified. He lashed out at the engineers for shoddy work. He attacked the short-sighted, zealotry greed that threatens the communities that endure floods each year and lose properties, and their loved ones, to the same.

Chilima asked why the consulting engineer recommended an earth dyke instead of a concrete one to the constructing firm, saying the dyke cannot withstand serious flooding. The 823-meter long dyke is meant to protect about 1200 households from floods in Nsanje.

He has in the recent past called on construction companies and others to “step up” on building long lasting structures that can resist natural disasters that are now taking a toll on the country.

Many well-meaning Malawians, alarmed by damning revelations of high-level corruption, and its effects in the construction industry, may agree with Chilima and have joined the increasingly caustic chorus, demanding to know the government’s position, or ascribing motives, for not taking to task bad workmanship

It’s heartening that the Vice-President demanded a good job from the contractor, and spoke for many patriotic Malawians, when many of his colleagues in Cabinet have given up entirely. They’ve walked away from insisting on a good job, and reprimanding those who fail to keep the standards that the first president, the late Kamuzu Banda, instilled in many of us.

But is Chilima’s heart really in this? If DPP were re-elected in May 2019, will Chilima quickly revert to the off-again, on-again, advocate for good work as the people of Nsanje witnessed yesterday?

We’re convinced this hardline stance by Chilima is not new and is not a matter of political expedience that will disappear if his DPP is re-elected next year

Even before he became Vice-President – and ever since – Chilima has always demonstrated commitment. And he remains every bit as committed as ever to a Malawi that is hard working and strives to make a difference. Bravo Mr Vice-President.

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