There are no jobs readily available in Malawi for former vice presidents.
This probably explains why it is rather difficult to track down what our former vice presidents are doing now. I am sure that their “right honourables” – Justin Malewezi and Cassim Chilumpha are all finding some personally fulfilling and even quite rewarding vocations to occupy their time away from the political spotlight. However, it seems to me that along with the departure of their day in the true mainstream of political influence went also their general relevance in the careers that shaped them before they took to the political podium.
Chilumpha has not gone back to academia, where obviously there would be some awkwardness to have a former Vice President lecturing law students on Company Law; and Malewezi just couldn’t possibly go back to being a top civil servant, could he?
Such is the nature of Malawian politics, and the Malawian economy. While in other countries former leaders usually find roles either in charitable initiatives or even as consultants in the private sector, in Malawi, these possibilities quite simply do not exist. There is a very understandable reason why former president Joyce Banda sticks to finding her relevance outside Malawi where there are still some gullible people ready to listen to whatever mandasi-wisdom or sad jeremiad she is always so ready to dish out, and why her former vice president, Khumbo Kachali decided simply to swallow the humble pie f demoting himself to a mere MP after the heights of the vice presidency.
This is the first point that Vice President Saulosi Chilima needs to very seriously consider and reflect upon.
We all saw and heard how President Peter Mutharika so arrogantly and adamantly endorsed the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)’s alliance with the United Democratic Front (UDF). He said whether people like it or not, whether one UDF member is in denial or not, and whether the UDF approves or not, he is determined to make the alliance work, and he certainly has no plans of dissolving the alliance or expelling the UDF leader, Atupele Muluzi from cabinet.
A person who speaks and behaves like that, dear uncommon sensers, knows that he already has everything in the bag regardless of what anyone else thinks. In this case, what we can deduce from Mutharika’s comments (and for deduce read “I have very good sources that have confided in me) is that the DPP/UDF deal is signed sealed and delivered.
And this is the second point that Vice President Saulosi Chilima needs carefully to think about.
What does a DPP-UDF marriage spell for the current state vice president? The answer is not too hard when you consider the fate of our former vice presidents. It spells the potential end of his career- both politically and otherwise. If Saulosi cannot see this, I feel sorry for him.
For 2019 elections, the pact has already been sworn. The DPP presidential ticket will be Peter Mutharika and AtupeleMuluzi. This is what all the offering of Atupele to Peter for him to abuse in spite of all the UDF protests has been about. Not that I would particularly recommend that proposition for the reasonably charismatic young Muluzi, or even for my fellow Malawians for that matter.
Those familiar with my thoughts as expressed on numerous occasions in this column and elsewhere know that I am against entrusting the leadership of our nation to spent geriatrics and retirees. As far as I am concerned, the likes of Peter Mutharika and Lazarus Chakwera (not to mention Sidik Mia, the misguided greedy one) need to hand over the baton to a new generation of Malawians with youthful years and energetic ideas.
Of course I know that most of my fellow Malawians, especially those that religiously follow Chakwera will be quick to say I am speaking nonsense. To them old people certainly shouldn’t lead Malawi- except Chakwera of course!
Be that as it may, for Vice President SaulosiChilima, these leadership tickets that are taking shape now leave him in the cold and limit his options severely. If he cannot get on the DPP leadership, then what does he do? Can he start his own political party and have it rolled out and ready to challenge for the presidency with less than two years left to the next election? Is that a practical option? I think not. I think it is probably too late to be starting a new political party now, but I do say that with caution as politics is the art of the possible and stranger things have been known to happen.
Or will Chilima accept the legacy of a man who rose too fast to the heights of political power, only for the totality of his career to get exhausted and die away at the tender age of 45?
Come to think of it, Chilima could consider leaving the DPP and challenging SidikMia to the MCP running -mate spot. If the MCP’s political loins are desperate enough to get excited with the prospect of a dangerous prostitute like Sidik Mia then surely it should be easy for the freshness and originality of the hot-blooded Saulosi to seduce it to a cadenza of promise and impatience.
In the final analysis though, it would sure make tragic reading for a former vice president, popular rising star and political new broom to slump back into the Malawian private sector job market. Or even to find there is no longer room for him to operate within Malawi and end up parading his intelligence and skills abroad.
I am at pains to think of any company that would be keen to hire a former vice president- especially with the political baggage that will accompany him. Yet the truth needs to be told; and the truth is that Vice President SaulosiChilima risks ending his career anti-climatically if he does not read the signs of Malawi’s political times and the writing on his wall.
I wonder if the vice president thinks that after serving in that office, he can become a civilian, bide his time and bounce back onto the political scene.
Clearly what President Peter Mutharika is doing to allow Chilima to be treated this way by the DPP is a low down dirty shame. I put the blame on Mutharika because if he still has faith and confidence in his vice president, and considers him to still be the man to stand by his side in 2019, he should say so now and put and end to all the speculation about the future of Saulosi in the DPP.
I do not want to see the promising freshness that Saulosi brought to the Malawian political scene die a natural death. I believe that of all people that can do something about it, however, it is up to Chilima to step up and take charge of his future, not President Mutharika, whatever the blame the President may shoulder on this issue.
But it seems to be that by a combination of hesitation, indecisiveness and perhaps the fear of the system on his part, and the age-old Malawian individual-centred politics as opposed to idea-centred are conspiring to kill of one of the most encouraging prospects of change Malawi has seen ever the days of Aleke Banda.
Whatever the reason for Chilima’s passivity in this regard, the bottom line is that he is sleeping and failing to realise that this is his life; that his career and his future are on the line here.
Mr Vice President, sir, please wake up!