President Peter Mutharika has hit at Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members opposing his candidature in the 2019 Tripartite Elections, saying he will not be intimidated because he has the backing of the grass roots.
The President, who is facing an unprecedented resistance from some DPP members canvassing for the candidacy of Vice-President Saulos Chilima, yesterday said the party is made of people from the grass roots who have been behind him since the death of his brother and founding DPP president Bingu wa Mutharika.
Choosing his words with care, Mutharika claimed some DPP members were plotting to sell the party to the opposition, a thing he said will not hold as the party was not for sale.
In a preamble to his address at the official opening of the 30th Malawi International Trade Fair in Blantyre, the President said in Chichewa: “Ena akufuna kundiopseza ine koma ndi inu pambuyo panga sindingaope munthu aliyense ayi. Inu ndi ine tachoka kutali. Ndipo ndikukulonjezani kuti sindizakusiyani chifukwa inunso simungandisiye.
“Komano afalisi tiwasiya pambuyo. Atamwalira a Bingu anthu ambiri anandithawa. Mu Parliament munali ma MP 156 koma 123 anathawa kungosala 33 okha. Koma inu simunandithawe ayi. Choncho muli bho kwambiri kuti muli ndi ine. [Some people want to intimidate me, but with you by my side, I will not fear. We have come a long way and my promise to you is that I will never abandon you because you can never leave me alone. But we will have to leave the Pharisees behind. When Bingu died, 123 out of 156 MPs fled, we were left with only 33.”
His remarks were received with chants of “Achoke! Achoke! [Let the critics leave the party]” from DPP supporters.
In his remarks, DPP regional governor (South) Charles Mchacha, while declaring Mutharika as DPP’s candidate in next year’s elections, said the President deserves a second term in office owing to the macroeconomic stability his administration has achieved over the past four years.
The DPP governor, whose name was not on the official list of speakers at the ceremony, described DPP members daring Mutharika to a convention to face Chilima as agents. He said they want to bring confusion in the party.
Former first lady Callista Mutharika—widow of the incumbent President’s brother Bingu—sparked the succession debate weeks ago when she said her in-law, 79, should pave the way for the comparatively youthful and energetic Chilima, 45, widely seen as a hands-on and results-oriented leader after he vibrantly led the Public Sector Reforms Programme that has lost steam since it was moved from his domain.
In the run-up to the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections, Chilima took many people by surprise when he resigned from his lucrative job as Airtel Malawi managing director in the private sector to join active politics as Mutharika’s running mate. His gamble paid dividends when the pair triumphed in the elections.
Several DPP national governing council (NGC) members, including legislators Patricia Kaliati (Mulanje West and national director of women), Bon Kalindo (Mulanje South), Noel Masangwi (Blantyre City East), Allan Ngumuya (Blantyre City South), Malison Ndau (Ntcheu Central), national director of youth Louis Ngalande and suspended deputy regional governor (North) Afiki Mbewe have openly supported Chilima’s candidacy.
However, Chilima has remained silent on the issue.