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HomeOpinionHow Saulos Chilima ruined his political career....How his future could have been

How Saulos Chilima ruined his political career….How his future could have been

Chilima looking drunk
Saulos Chilima said to be misled by Akweni Kailati and Callista Mutharika on his political pathway

By Lyson Sibande

Today, I want to talk about Saulos Chilima’s ruined future with some backing to it.

But first and foremost, I offer my heartfelt condolences to you, Right Honorable, Dr Saulos Klaus Chilima, Vice President of the Republic of Malawi, upon hearing that you recently lost your brother in-law. May you and your family find solace in the promises of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

We live in a cursed world of death, but I invite you and those of us grieving with you to look forward to the new earth promised by the Lord Himself where we shall not only reunite with our departed loved ones but shall part with them no more.

Now, fellow Malawians, allow me to present my case that Chilima’s political career is ruined. I know some folks, especially the overzealous apologists, would argue that at around 50 years old, he is still youthful with a whole future ahead of him to recover. That is true, I wholeheartedly agree with that. In politics, at 50 or even 60, one can still be considered to have a future.

However, I would intuitively give him at least 30 years counting from 2025, which are 6 Presidential Elections, for him to stand a chance at the ballot. Unfortunately, while the law might stand in his way, among other factors, the variables over such a long period are less likely to change in his favor mainly due to social and demographic factors.

That’s how guys like Kanyama Chiume lost their political relevance and were not as appealing in 1994 as they had been in the 1950s and 1960. Even guys like Brown Mpinganjira have suffered from the same fate of time whereby only history testifies to their once great relevance and power when they were in the age ranges of Chilima.

So, how did Chilima ruin his political career?

We can all agree that since Chilima joined the frontline politics in early 2014, he quickly became a political darling to many, including myself. He was the most loved, popular and appealing politician until the aftermath of the Tonse Coalition government in 2020.

Prior, especially from around 2015, even those people that hated everything about Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) loved Chilima. In him, the walls of tribalism and regionalism collapsed because he was loved across the regional and tribal divides. He was the embodiment of a new generation of young, brilliant, charismatic and clean politicians that Malawians of all walks of life were more than ready to embrace and trust them with the future of this country.

As of 2018, towards the 2019 Elections, even as DPP was losing popularity, most Malawians were still ready to give DPP another chance if Chilima would take over leadership.

But when it became clear to him that President Peter Mutharika was not going to yield the 2019 candidacy to him, Chilima and his lieutenants decided to fight. This was the first mistake.

Chilima should have known that it was impossible for him to take over DPP by forcing Mutharika out of the way. That was a non-starter and an exhibition of the poorest of political judgment.

Now, how was Chilima’s future supposed to be beyond 2019?

We may choose to disagree, but if Chilima had stayed in DPP, he would still be the Vice President as he is today and Peter Mutharika would be President. There would be no Tonse Coalition government to humiliate him like this. Most importantly to his future, Chilima would be the strongest aspirant in DPP today to takeover leadership of the Party and become Malawi’s President in the Presidential Elections of 2024.

Additionally, DPP would still be strong enough to make him president and not badly disintegrated with factionalism as it is today. This extreme factionalism in DPP now is the result of a missing succession plan and absence of a leading stronger aspirant within the mainstream party hierarchy.

That is why the succession struggle in DPP now differs from that of 2012-2014 when Bingu died. Peter Mutharika was already so strong a successor prepared and largely accepted that when other aspirants like Chimunthu Banda tried to push him aside, they hit a hard rock. And the party remained strong despite mass defections.

All the potential aspirants that have emerged in DPP now would have come nowhere near the power and support that Chilima could have had. I think, these guys could not even have dared to stand and declared their interest to contest against him.

I know there are many who think that Chilima left DPP because the elites in the party were fighting against him and that if he had remained in DPP, they could still be fighting against him today. Therefore, whichever way, he stood no chance to replace Mutharika for the 2024 Presidential Elections. This thinking is sensible yes, but uninformed.

Chilima had the support of most elites in DPP and most Cadets in DPP loved him. Mutharika himself loved Chilima. You will recall on 18 July 2017, Mutharika said it openly and proudly that “Chilima is my son.”

A good number of Cabinet Ministers, strategists, and party officials were on his side. Should Mutharika paved way, they wanted him to takeover or at least, partner with Mutharika again for the 2019 Elections. They did not want Chilima out of DPP until Chilima himself drew out his sword and drew the battle line against his boss.

When he started that fight through his lieutenants , he lost most Cadets and elites because they could not openly take sides and fight the President. Additionally, there were other smarter strategists in DPP who outsmarted him and quickly got back some of the elites and Cadets that he had counted on. He was disarmed.

Those that openly joined the fight likes of Patricia Kaliati, Bon Kalindo and Callista Mutharika did that because they had already fallen out of favor with Mutharika and had their own personal scores to settle.

And then finally, Chilima made the mistake of forming his UTM. I don’t even know what he was thinking. In a country where regionalism and tribalism are the bedrock of party strongholds and influence voter’s behavior, it is just practically impossible to win elections riding on a popular movement, no matter how strong and good a candidate can be.

You need a political party that has a regional stronghold, at least. He surrounded himself with the wrong strategists who were very theoretical in their approach. They fooled him and from the look of things, they still fool him.

I wish he had just resigned from DPP and take a break. By now, all political parties would be begging him to lead their parties. He would have remained as clean and popular.

None of the current leaders, including the current President, would have matched Chilima’s political appeal. I have no doubt that 2024/2025 was meant to be Chilima’s turn but he ruined his future due to poor hasty decisions, and lack of patience.

I still wish him the best and pray for his future.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are those of the author not necessarily of The Maravi Post or Editor

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