During the transitional period from dictatorship to a democracy in 1994, framers of our new democratic constitution created the office of the vice president among several other provisions that were missing in the previous. The office of vice president was not meant to be the poisoned chalice it has become. It was not meant to be a threat to the president nor was it meant to be a curse to whoever occupies it. The office of the Vice president was necessary and was meant to facilitate the creation and sustainability of a strong and functional democracy in Malawi. That is why the constitution had to protect the vice presidency from the powers of the president.
Unfortunately, since we adopted the democratic constitution in 1995, all presidents have been very uncomfortable with their vice presidents and found them very threatening. As a result they have always felt insecure and victimized their vice presidents to protect their interests and interests of their cronies and tribesmen. In order to redeem themselves from victimization and to fight for their constitutional right to run for office of president, the vice presidents have always unsuccessfully created factions within the so-called ruling party to maneuver their way through to the top. Eventually, they have always left the ruling party and created their own parties and contested but none has succeeded to win elections.
It is now quite apparent that none of our previous vice presidents was better and more tactical at redeeming himself from victimization of the president and his cronies to run for the office of president than Dr. Klaus Chilima. Something tells me that Chilima is capable of changing the fate and history of the office of the vice president in Malawi. I am sure many are beginning to see that the potential and determination of the vice president towards leading this country was underestimated and misjudged.
I am persuaded to submit that Chilima is possibly not a victim of the fate of his office as some may suggest, but rather the master of his own fate, which he is carefully orchestrating and which is not yet sealed.
After it was publicly confirmed that the Vice president had fallen out with the president through public outbursts of president Mutharika and his government and party officials in their castigation of Chilima and his supporters, many doubted his strength to stand up to his political bullies and go after the presidency. In his continued silence on the matter and his later withdrawal from the DPP convention they saw fear and cowardice. In his press statement on 6 June and interview on 4 July which broke the silence about his aspirations to contest in 2019 but did not achieve enough to convince his critics, and those that expected more from him of his level of his determination, they saw indecisiveness and timidity.
They were wrong.
With his performance at the launch of the United Transformation Movement (UTM) last Saturday on 21 July, public opinion and media reports show that Chilima has convinced the country that he is ready and capable of offering this country better leadership. He has also with his a single rally of a launch entirely changed the political landscape towards 2019 making himself a vital force to reckon with and alternative viable option against Mutharika and Chakwera.
Chilima lunched the UTM at Masintha in Lilongwe in a very historical manner. Against all expectations of what would become of the launch of a movement- not even a party, of a victimized youthful vice president who was presumed to be weak and lacking in strategy, the rally was a very huge success. Thousands of people, both young and old with many of them wearing t-shirts, caps and similar attires of UTM movement that displayed the face of Chilima were all over the place. Dozens of vehicles of UTM were everywhere in the city of Lilongwe and at Masintha ground, painting the capital city with in red.
This was not an ordinary launch of a simple movement. Apart from thousands that attended, several members of parliament from major parties like MCP, DPP and UDF had already defected to the movement and confidently took their seats on the podium. Most of them took turns to speak in favor of the movement and the leadership of Chilima to endorse his credibility to the people of Malawi. These MPs were mostly heavy weights that command some reasonable respect across the country and are therefore capable of pulling numbers from their constituencies but swaying the entire public opinion and perception in favor of the movement.
When he got his turn to speak, as a president of UTM and aspiring leader of our country, media reports and word of mouth, testify that Chilima did not disappoint. He spoke strongly and boldly against the evils of corruption, nepotism and other evils and malpractices of the DPP administration that are killing our country. The people welcomed his speech and its impact can still be felt beyond the launch as the media continue to debate and discuss it. There is still panic coming in the other political camps, which is clear sign that Chilima drew the battle line and he drew it strongly.
The manner in which Chilima launched the rally, along with the massive patronage, the speakers and the speeches and the movement’s material and everything, reveals excellent planning, organization and exceptional management. This means that while we might have been busy guessing, doubting and wondering about his seriousness and commitment, Chilima was working steps ahead of us, he had his strategies already worked out and only waiting for the moment to set his agenda for 2019 in motion.
This might reveal much about his ability as a leader and someone who can be entrusted with running the affairs of a country.
I can only congratulate him for that massive launch of UTM and wish him the best of luck as he attempts to lift the curse from the office of the vice presidency in Malawi and turn what has so far been many men’s poison into his cake.
Allan Ntata’s Column can be read every Sunday on the Maravi Post