Foes and friends are still trying to make sense of the response of Vice President Saulos Chilima’s calls for him to challenge President Peter Mutharika at the party’s coming elective convention, writes MarcFarlane Mbewe.
BOTH camps of sympathisers and opponents are still not quite sure what the 45-year-old company executive-turned-politician will do, after declaring that he will not seek any position in the Democratic Progressive Party.
Others are still hoping that he will reveal whether he will join forces with a political party or form one himself ahead of the 2019 polls.
Chilima provided no clear answers to such crucial questions on his political plan and ideology at his recent press conference in Lilongwe.
Considering his prolonged silence before the press conference and his vague responses to crucial questions from the news media representatives, many people could be forgiven for thinking that he has embarked on psychological warfare and mind games against Mutharika, the DPP and the rest of us.
Some analysts are even concluding that he is a passive leader, one who psycho- analysts say sacrifices his or her own need or ambition to help others to meet their needs.
Chilima seems to fit this mold. At the press in Lilongwe, for example, he disclosed that he had retreated from contesting against Mutharika or from seeking any position at the scheduled convention because he did not want to be seen to be stirring trouble in the DPP or against those who founded and own that party.
Throughout the leadership debate in the DPP, Chilima indeed demonstrated many signs that allowed others to take advantage of his silence.
Experts in the area of human behaviour warn that passive leaders are fooled in the short term: knowing that they are being approved of but failing to live up to people’s expectations when they are required to make the sacrifice.
Many of his supporters were clearly left disappointed, judging from his meek, or diplomatic responses even in the face of provocative statements from the Mutharika camp.
He said, for example, that he was initially humbled when President Mutharika approached him in 2014 to be his running mate, giving the impression that he was not up to the task that many have been calling on him to take up.
Passive people, as one of the human behaviour practitioners explained, are like experts at sugarcoating hostility.
At the press conference, according to some observers, Chilima displayed procrastination, bumbling inefficiency and provided annoying excuses that let many people disappointed, even though he tried hard to hide anger beneath a compliant exterior.
He did not give straight answers and provided vague responses such as “I’ll speak when the time comes.”
Chilima proved that he is a master at shirking responsibility by saying that the fight against corruption and tribalism is for everyone including CSOs and the news media.
This statement makes him even more passive as such kind of leaders are proneto stifle anger, sound accommodative, and then indirectly stick it to others.
For example, Chilima accused the media of distorting facts by saying that President Mutharika had “summoned” him,when he could have used a better word to describe the meeting.
Others are warning that the Vice President is testing his supporters’ patience on this affair.
A renowned American psychologist, Judith Orfloff advises passive leaders in her book The Ecstasy of Surrender to move forward to improve communication.
In her opinion, passive leaders are not motivated to change unless someone calls them out on their behaviour.
This is what watchdogs like the news media and CSOs have been trying for some time, to make office bearers like Chilima to stop making such slippery responses and excuses: even if persons like Chilima may not be aware of this.
Chilima should be advised on the real need for clear communication. He owes it to his followers and the rest of the people who are praying for a transformative leadership that will not be based on tribalism, shielding of corrupt officials and that encourages violence instead of tolerance against others who disagree with their points of view.