On Thursday, news broke that some people in the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) plan to bump Vice President Saulos Chilima off so that a favourite of theirs can take over power in the event of President Peter Mutharika’s death or incapacitation.
Section 87 of the Malawi constitution empowers the Vice President to take over if the president dies or is incapacitated.
When President Bingu wa Mutharika died in 2012, DPP found itself in a quandary. Without warning, the party was faced with the grim and sober reality that power was going to slide away from its grip. And slide it did.
German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, floats the theory of eternal recurrence which, in short, says all existence has been recurring, and will continue to recur, in a self-similar form for an infinite number of times across infinite time or space. It seems to dawn on the DPP rank and file that events of 2012 are in the process of repeating themselves, in line with the theory of eternal recurrence.
But this time they do not want to leave anything to chance. If the president gets incapacitated or dies, they will hide the news long enough until they have sorted Chilima out. Only then will they come in the open to announce the death.
Why kill him? Why not simply write a letter in Mutharika’s name and dismiss him?
It’s because Chilima can only leave the position of Vice President in three ways: impeachment, resignation or death. Since impeachment is tricky and has little chance of succeeding – besides, you have to have real reasons for impeaching him or the courts will quash the decision –; and also since he is unlikely to resign – he has no reason for doing so – the only surest and quickest way to remove him is death.
Some powerful cabinet ministers regard Chilima as an intruder. One, he is not from the Lomwe tribe, the president ethnic group. And two, he does not hold any position in the party. These powerful ministers, especially from the Lomwe belt, want Chilima out of the way as quickly as possible.
For the DPP cadre to press the panic button, it started with the annual non-mandatory presidential trip to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Mutharika’s departure was just as secretive as his entire stay in the United States.
The government totally refused to disclose the number of people that had gone to attend the conference. We only heard through the grapevine that some – like bodyguard Paulos Chisale – allegedly took along with them girlfriends, the bill footed by the government, of course.
For a few days of his stay in the United States, we saw Mutharika attend some functions and make speeches here and there. For instance, a photo of the president chatting with former United States president, Bill Clinton, was widely shared, as were photos of him receiving some dubious award from a dubious Nigerian magazine.
But all that came to a stop as abrupt as the black-out by the Electricity Supply Commission of Malawi.
A well-placed source in New York told me: “We were all preparing to meet the president the following day. He had several other activities lined up. Then suddenly, we were told that he was unwell and that the doctor had recommended a bed rest. From that point onwards, no one was allowed to see him.”
Like that game of kamwayi-kamunthu or now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t, Mutharika had disappeared.
Dead or alive?
Back home, hysteria mounted. In these days of advanced technology, the country’s temperature is measured through social media. The hashtag, #bringbackourMutharika began to trend on Twitter and Facebook.
The government deliberately decided to put a black-out on Mutharika’s news. The Minister of Information, Maliseni Ndau, kept saying the president was continuing with meetings in the United States. What sort of meetings, the government could not say. Had he, perhaps, taken days off to see his three children who live there? No, Ndau said. Was he seeing friends in the countryside, since he lived there for forty years? No. What then? Yada, yada, yada, Ndau huffed and puffed.
Theories abound, the most plausible of which was floated by barrister Allan Ntata: President Mutharika was taken ill. It was discovered that he had a brain tumour. Doctors made a decision to operate on it, to nip the tumor in the bud as it was at its earliest stages. When the president stayed two days in a comma, the inner circle went into panic. That was the time rumours began to circulate that Mutharika had gone to meet his Maker.
That was also when they decided to be highly secretive about it. They needed time to bump off the Vice President so that they could take over power and continue plundering the nation.
Let the rule of law prevail
It would be stupid of the DPP to think that they can kill Chilima and get away with it. The world is watching. Whether it’s through some dubious car accident or sudden disappearance or poisoning, it will no longer be a secret. One text message sent in error to a well-meaning Malawian has exposed all that.
If Mutharika is incapacitated, let the rule of law prevail. Don’t think you’re too clever. The eye of God is watching you.