And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!
2 Samuel 18:33
Some months ago – in reality like two years ago – former First Lady Madame Calista Mutharika shocked the country with her open pronouncement of support for Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima as the DPP 2019 presidential candidate.
In the tape, made available to me by some underground supporters of the same, Mde Mutharika laid out reasons for her support: SKL was young, APM was old; SKL would ensure a DPP win, APM would definitely lead to a DPP loss. She also bemoaned the rampant ills of the APM administration, among the corruption and lack of development.
The tape went viral.
She has since been joined by a coterie of Chilima supporters. But joining the political gravy train are anti-Chilima-pro-APM supporters. The latter group even compelled finance minister Goodall Gondwe call Chilima a baby that is not fit to rule Malawi.
A series of other reactions from both sides have been flying halter skelter on Malawi’s political skyline, clearly dividing the ruling party in two.
Matters reached a crescendo when anti-Chilima faction attempted to prevent Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker for Mulanje South Patricia Kaliati enter parliament, along with two other MP (Masangwi and Bonnie Kalindo.
On their part the pro-Chilima group made noise preventing APM deliver his State Opening Address of the 3rd Meeting in the 47th Session of Parliament and 2018/2019 Budget Meeting.
Except for when Chilima chided the parliament protesters, neither APM and SKL have honored the fracas a reaction yay or nay. And while APM has declared himself fit to contest again and he will contest, he has not made any comment to the Chilima for president call, nor has he named his running mate.
This week, party zealots staged another “tili mambuyo paKamuzu” style gimmick. MPs were whisked to the palace to unanimously pay homage to APM, categorically denounce Chilima, and totally support APM.
It is heartwarming to take note that Malawi politicians have come of age; they’ve grown up; they’ve matured.
When Madame Kaliati was accused of literary being a traitor, by supporting SKC, she categorically refused the accusations and shot back with some plain daylight truth: Kaliati insists that the number one supporter of Chilima is the President APM.
She counters that APM picked Saulos Chilima from the outside DPP political sphere in 2014 to be his running mate. This was the same routine muluzi did in 2004 when he picked up outsider Bingu Mutharika to run on the 2004 UDF presidential ticket.
In her defense of being a Chilima flakey Kaliati said: “In fact the number one supporter of Saulos Chilima is the President himself, who picked him in 2014 to be his running mate. Why should I be insulted and attacked for supporting the Presidents own choice?”
This is so blatantly true, it pains any reasonable thinking person, because there shouldn’t be all these fly balls in various media fora.
But there’s proof that the two are fans of each other: APM left SKC in charge of the coveted Government hot seat for an entire two weeks. When APM returned, like a good boy, SKL returned the government back to his fanzo.
Last week, the two were rapier attending soccer legend Jack Africa Chamangwana. They sat next to each other, conversed with each other, and bade each other goodbye after the ceremony.
So what’s going on here? What’s happening? Either they are two very cool cats who won’t their game out of the bag, or they are skillfully sizing each other up.
But the optics are fooling us. To understand better, lets rewind to the previous optics of Prez and Veep in the five administrations. Only the first couple joined and left the president and vice president’s offices together, the remaining couples left office in tatters.
First Administration: Hastings Kamuzu Banda and Gwanda Chakuamba hit it off very well and sailed to the finish of term line still together. But Gwanda relinquished his portion as leader of MCP, flip flopped and was party-less, despite a small stint as leader of a party he formed.
Second Administration: Bakili Muluzi and Justin Malewezi, fell out of grace with each other, especially in the second term. While Veep was busy defending his doctoral thesis, his boss was searching for his successor, and his initials did not match with JM, but rather BM. Then there’s that whole third term mess; no one doubts JM was not a supporter of Muluzi’s 3rd term bid.
Another mess was the legal tangle of summarily dismissal. He stuck on, but Muluzi taunted his Veep, even schooled Malawians about how sick his Veep was and the daily drug dosage he took to keep alive.
Third Administration: Bingu Wa Mutharika and Cassim Chilumpha were like oil and water. Bingu disliked Chilumpha from the word Go! Chilumpha, like himself, was a hand-picked Veep for Mutharika; a pick by Muluzi.
Ironically while Bingu ditched the party that led him to the State House; while his Veep Chilumpha spent some time in prison. He was found guilty of the trumped-up charges of plot to kill the president.
Fourth Administration: Bingu and Joyce Banda sailed hand in hand into the 2009 administration. But as quickly as they fell in love, they fell out of love so fast, it left heads turning and citizens wondering if Malawi’s first female vice president would taste prison like Chilumpha.
Apart from living a life hated by her prior in-love-with-you president JB endured the snide treatment from government-controlled broadcaster – being wiped from current affairs.
Bingu’s sudden death on April 5, 2012, and attempts to conceal it, nearly caused a constitutional crisis.
Fifth Administration: Joyce Banda and Khumbo Kachale also suffered love lost by the end of the presidency of Malawi’s first female president and Africa’s second. But the ink was barely dried of JB’s defeat in the 2014 elections and Kachale was out the door.
Such has been the optic of Malawi presidents and their vice presidents. In the current coupled (aka APM and SKC), as Prez and Veep are serenading in the corridors of power, with neither a sneer or a slip of the tongue from either, young people are dancing on the streets chanting their support from a candidate that is not.
But what really is going on? Is the country being taken for a ride? What if all these activities, pronouncements and declared animosity is just a stage show? What if after three to four months this circus the DPP tells us either that APM and SKC are the ticket in 2019 OR APM downs his gravel and hands over the presidential bid to the youthful Chilima (having enjoyed pre-campaign public support.
The widespread free-for-all jamboree and street fest would lead to even non-DPP voters to vote for SKC.
If this second option comes to the surface, then, yes, we have been fooled. Heavy.
We have heard all the two tambala worth of opinions and pronouncements. The two main personas: the President Arthur Peter Mutharika and Saulos Klaus Chilima. Your choice to remain silent is respected.
Long live genuine democracy!