Will the real Chilima please stand up?

Callista Mutharika

FORMER First Lady, Callista Mutharika, has opened the way to a long overdue debate by expressing her opinion that President Peter Mutharika and the Democratic Progressive Party, DPP will lose in the 2019 general elections if he does not pave way for his Vice President, Saulos Chilima.

Many will agree with her position, but just as many, we are sure, will disagree with her.

We welcome this because the essence of democracy is to agree to disagree and to listen to each other’s views, until we arrive at a point of agreement on what and how, could best be achieved for everyone who lives in this country.

For the record, President Mutharika conveyed his response on the former First Lady’s comments. His press office said he was surprised and that his relationship with Chilima was cordial and that some people were trying to bring about discord in their relationship.

The impression of many however, at least as most Malawians are concerned, is that Chilima is relegated by Mutharika to carrying out harmless events such as playing in basketball and golf tournaments and prevented from expressing himself on matters of ‘realpolitik’.

Some are praising Chilima’s studied silence, equating it to the wisdom that says ‘discretion is better than valour’ and that he should ignore the comments of the former First Lady and others who would like to see him standing up for himself.

Others, including many of the youth who admire him, are saying instead, that the real Chilima should stand up and show that he is fit and proper for the job at hand by speaking out on matters that concern the youth, even if it means falling out with some elements within the DPP.

We support the latter view. There are many who are speaking out, albeit privately and placing their hope in Chilima. He needs to convince them that their hopes are not misplaced.

Those who are old enough have witnessed enough examples over the years, of the poor relationships between our presidents and our vice presidents, including the near-crisis in April 2012 that was caused by some disgruntled elements in the DPP. We would not want to see the recurrence of another fiasco of that nature.

It is therefore absolutely necessary in an emerging democracy such as ours, to have healthy debates on such issues.

They would help to open up the space for as many young Malawians as possible – ‘the future leaders’ — as so many of our elder politicians are wont to call us, to be able to discuss freely topics that could help to clear our path to a better future.

So far, as most persons of the younger generation testify, successive and current leaders have failed us dismally.

Our country is a gerontocracy, one that is ruled by leaders that are significantly older than most of the adult population who are persons aged 18 and upwards.

Our politics is based on tribal affiliation, marred by violence and the participation of youth in politics is defined as those who paint themselves in colours of their party and women who sing and gyrate their bums to please their political leaders.  Our economy is failing to provide jobs and gainful opportunities to millions of our youth. The list could go on and on.

For now, we repeat: the former First Lady, Callista Mutharika has opened the way to a long overdue debate. So, will the real Chilima please demonstrate  courage and speak up?

As it has been said before, healthy debate is indispensable for democracy to flourish because it gives our people, especially the young, to evaluate the performance of those who have been in office and those who are projecting themselves to be our leaders.


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