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Chilima Challenged to Break Silence

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Chilima and President Mutharika at a party function- Chilima and President Mutharika at a party function- file photo

Calls are mounting for Malawi’s Vice President Saulos Chilima to come out clear on his position with regard to sentiments suggesting he be the torch bearer for the ruling party in the 2019 polls.

Some observers and analysts we have spoken to say Chilima’s silence could bring about chaos in the rank and file of the Democratic Progress Party (DPP).

Sentiments by former First Lady Callista Mutharika that Chilima must take over from his boss, President Peter Mutharika, appears to have put Chilima in an awkward situation.

His choice to be silent on the public discussion which is now dubbed ‘hurricane Callista’, is being interpreted as a loud voice – positive to Callista Mutharika’s sentiments.

Callista Mutharika told the nation she would rather have Chilima as DPP presidential candidate in the 2019 elections because Mutharika is old.

Close to two weeks after the surprise statement by the former first lady, Chilima has chosen to be mum in a political environment many describe as hostile for him.

However, social media commentators think that the silence is his speech.

They argue that if Chilima was against what Callista said, he would have said so.

“If he stays quiet then it essentially means he agrees with what was being said or he must have influenced her [Callista Mutharika] to say what she said,” said one Mzuzu resident.

Other political analysts think Chilima has taken a tactical approach - one to avoid further political strain in his relationship with the President.

“He has made the right choice because speaking out will create a strain in his working relationship with the president. Callista expressed her opinion it should be taken as such,’ said Patricia Khonje, a political analyst based in Lilongwe.

For Chancellor College political science professor Ernest Thindwa, any comment from Chilima at the moment runs the risk of political misinterpretation, and he better remain silent.

The DPP has made it unofficially public that President Peter Mutharika would, again, be the party’s torch bearer in the 2019 tripartite elections.

DPP Secretary General Grezzelder Jeffrey and President Mutharika’s confidant Ben Phiri suggest they would rather have a repeat of the Mutharika-Chilima pair in the 2019 polls.

Essentially, they object to Chilima carrying the torch. Chilima is aged 45 while Mutharika is aged 79.


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