For a people known for being polite and a country that claims to be the “warm heart of Africa”, I am rather astonished that many among us were unable to discern that our Vice President Chilima’s responses in that BBC interview were meant to be polite and not abrasive. Many among us have interpreted his politeness for weakness and castigated him for “blowing” the interview and failing to expound the issues as probed by Zainab Badawi.
While I applaud the Vice President for upholding Malawi’s reputation of being a polite people, however, I feel those questions were indeed pertinent and needed to be addressed with a ruthlessness that is perhaps the only currency which some of the VP’s detractors understand. For that reason, with nothing whatsoever for me to gain in being polite, I am taking it upon myself to respond to the same questions. As all you uncommon sensors have come to expect, my approach will pull no punches. After all, I am over 35 years of age and it is my constitutional right to dish out my Uncommon Sense for the benefit of those interested to read, right?
Q1. Why are you running against President Mutharika, the very man you stood together with as his running mate in 2014?
Because now that I have worked with him, I have discovered that he is an incompetent puppet and his administration is rotten and corrupt. What I have seen working with the DPP officials in government, is that they neither understand no care about the priorities and the issues that most Malawians care about. My primary duty, even as running mate to President Mutharika in 2014, was to Malawians and not to any individual. If Mutharika had kept the vision that we together had for Malawi and delivered on the promises that we made to Malawians of developing the country, improving the living standards of the poor and fighting corruption earnestly, I would not need to run against him. But he has departed from that path. I know the ideas and the policies that are needed to turn the country around, policies which he neither wants to implement, nor listen to any advice on how they can be applied. I was elected by Malawians along with Mutharika because Malawians believed in me to be a person that can help change that country. I do not want to let them down.
Q2. Are you discharging your duties as Vice President?
Yes. According to the constitution of Malawi (I don’t know if you have taken the time to read it, Zainab), the job of the vice president is to sit in his office and wait for the president to delegate roles and responsibilities to him or her, or for the president to ask for advice or be invited to cabinet meetings. I am discharging my duties. I sit in my office as I have always done since 2014 and wait for tasks to be assigned to me. The fact, however, is that no tasks are assigned to me. I am not asked for any advice on any issue and I am not invited to attend cabinet meetings. But this is not my fault. I am available as the constitution says I should be. Under the Malawi Constitution, I am discharging my duties 100 per cent.
Q3. Do you hold any meetings with the president or other members of the cabinet?
Q4. Isn’t Claiming your salary when you are doing nothing and essentially not working corruption? Why Not resign?
Even the furthest stretch of the definition of corruption whether internationally or under the corruption laws in Malawi cannot cover my situation. As I have said, Malawians when electing me alongside president Mutharika, expected me to be available to him for counsel and for advice, and to be available for the assignation of any tasks that the president may wish to assign to me. I am available. I am claiming my salary for doing exactly what Malawians and the Malawian constitution expect me to do. Be available for the president. If the president called me today and asked me for my counsel on any matter, I would give it. Happily!
Q5. Don’t you feel uncomfortable starting your own party and declaring that you will run against the president, and yet remaining in his administration?
I am now certain that you have not really read the Malawian constitution, Zainab. The Malawian constitution does not recognize political parties at executive level. This is the reason why the president has been able to work with Atupele Muluzi, who is the president of an opposition party in Malawi called UDF. Atupele has also himself declared that he will run against the president in 2019. I do not believe that Atupele Muluzi feels uncomfortable because working with government even when he is a leader of an opposition party is entirely alright under the Malawian constitution. I do not feel there is any reason for me to feel uncomfortable either. After all, I am in the better situation because I am never invited to attend cabinet meetings and I am assigned no tasks by the president. What is there to make me uncomfortable?
Q6. Where were you all this time for you to be exposing corruption now? You are in an influential position as Vice President. Why didn’t you stop it?
If you had taken the time to study Malawi’s administrative framework, you would know that the vice president in Malawi has no influence whatsoever to stop corruption. The best one can do, and that is only if one is really brave, is speak against it, or advise the president against it where possible. In the period when I was actively being included in the administration of the country, I spoke against corruption, and in the reforms program which I initially championed, I advised the president on how to curb corruption. To claim that I have waited until now to expose corruption is to be grossly misinformed. The bottom line is that I have done what a powerless vice president can do in the circumstances, and since this has not worked, it is time for me to seek my own mandate from Malawians so that I can take matters into my own hands.
Q7. Mutharika has also spoken about corruption. You and Mutharika are on the same page. Why run against him? After all, the international community has resumed aid and has endorsed his policies in development and anti-corruption. He’s not doing badly. Why not just work with him?
When you are a president, speaking against corruption is usually just window dressing. What is required is action. It is a shame that neither you nor any of the members of the international community know anything about the corrupt sale of MSB, a government owned bank to private interests. Do you know about the corrupt purchase of Maize made with Mutharika’s knowledge and approval? Or the billions paid to one businessman in Malawi by his government, a businessman who just happens to be the chief financier of the DPP? What about the MK145 million kick-back paid into his personal account from an Asian businessman who had just completed a dubious procurement deal with the police? Or the vehicles purchased for the president personally by the same businessman to the total about of MK85 million? I do not care what you or the International community say. President Mutharika is not fighting corruption. He is perpetuating it. It would be difficult to work with a president who believes these acts I have just listed are part of fighting corruption.
Q8. Why did you meet with Joyce Banda? Given the Cashgate scandal and her poor record against corruption during her time as president, how could you say you have a common vision?
Malawi has many problems besides corruption. Joyce Banda may have failed to fight corruption but she has immense experience and vision for Malawi in other areas of development in which Malawi is also facing challenges. These areas are women empowerment, gender issues, youth development and women in business. We share these visions with her. We cannot refuse to tap from her wisdom and experience in these areas simply because her track record with regards to fighting corruption was decimal. When in government, we will be tackling all evils and challenges that Malawi is facing, not just corruption.
Allan Ntata’s Column can be read every Sunday on the Maravi Post
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