By Falles Kamanga
Is there finally, trouble in paradise. Some Malawians suspect the Malawian political curse that has always struck at the presidency has finally found President Lazarus Chakwera and his second in command, Saulos Chilima.
Malawian presidents, after the dawn of democracy have been known to fall out with their Vices at some point in their tenure.
It happened with Bakili Muluzi and Justin Malawezi, Bingu Wa Mutharika and Cassim Chilumpha and later, Joyce Banda. More recently, it was Peter Mutharika and Saulos Chilima
It has always been a matter of when and not if the relationship between Chakwera and Chilima will officially go sour for some Malawians.
For this reason, so many stories and suspicions of Chakwera and Chilima not seeing eye to eye have been abound, just for the two to put those worries to rest with a public show of bromance.
However, the latest indications of trouble in paradise may be the most stark their have ever been between the two.
It is understood that Chakwera did not consult Chilima on the recent dissolution of cabinet. The dead give away for those pushing this rumour is the fact that the day Chakwera announced the dissolution of his cabinet, in Lilongwe, Chilima had traveled to Blantyre and was scheduled to meet business captains to discuss the COVID-19, social exonomic recovery plan but had to cancel that meeting after the announcement of the dissolution of the cabinet.
On top of that, Chakwera has “fired” Chilima as Minister of Economic Planning and Development, rebundling it with the Ministry of Finance, leaving the Vice President with the responsibility for Reforms as his only other portfolio.
To make matters worse, where Chakwera would always make sure to attribute decisions made by the presidency to himself and Chilima in his speeches since the campaign period, that was not the case on Sunday during the swearing in of his new cabinet, a ceremony for which, the Vice President was conspicuously missing.
Of course, the Vice President may have had a good reason to not attend the function, however, Chakwera’s speech, in which he emphasized for the newly sworn in ministers that, they report to him and only him, that even though it is an alliance government, he is the one who appointed them and they should not be under any illusion that anybody from their individual political parties influenced his decision to appoint them, did not help matters.“
Fifthly, I expect my Cabinet to work accountably. Whether you belong to Malawi Congress Party or UTM or People’s Party, or any other political party in Tonse Alliance, you must remember that it is I who appointed you and it is to me that you report. Do not become presumptuous and imagine that your appointment is attributed to someone else (obviously leaders of their respective parties).
I expect regular and timely reports to my office of the progress you are making, and I expect those reports to be present to me directly and for me to be the one that directs you on whether any contents in your reports should be shared with anyone. My point here is to remind you that you are not just a Minister of Government. You are my Minister.
The constitution gives the president of Malawi the prerogative to appoint and fire ministers. However, it has always been generally understood that in the alliance the president would be making some key decisions in conjunction with leaders of the other alliance partners, like the Vice President, who is the the other leader of one of the two principal partners in the alliance, UTM, apart from, Chakwera’s MCP.
Besides, that was the picture Chakwera and Chilima tried so hard to paint during the campaign period. Of course the writing may have been on the wall when Chilima during a campaign rally declared that he would double as Vice President and Minister of Finance in the Tonse Alliance just for Chakwera to publicly contradict him on national radio, saying modalities of ministerial appointments had not been decided then.
It was therefore no surprise that when they finally formed government, Chilima was not made Minister of Finance as he had promised people but was rather given the Economics Planning and Development portfolio which has even been snatched from him.
Discussions for an alliance between MCP and UTM were so protracted to the point that some people thought it would never be.
When it was finally sealed, it was revealed that the bone of contention had been some terms of the agreement. However the terms of the agreement between the two main parties in the alliance were never made public.