It is now official. Vice-President Saulos Chilima will be on the presidential ballot in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections as torchbearer for the new kid on the political block, UTM, following his election as party president yesterday.
The unopposed endorsement by the UTM national conference at Bingu International Convention Centre in Lilongwe was a dream come true for Chilima, who appeared on the presidential ballot as President Peter Mutharika’s running mate in the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections after quitting his private sector job as Airtel Malawi managing director, before ditching the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in June this year to pursue the ambition.
Dedicating his acceptance speech to the people of Malawi, he said UTM has joined the political fray to reshape the future of the country and give it “a whole new direction”.
Said Chilima: “We are not here for self-serving.”
He said 54 years after independence, Malawi has not realised its full potential; hence, urged the newly elected UTM leadership to rise to the occasion and champion transformation.
Chilima demanded sacrifice from the newly elected UTM leadership, saying they should take their election as a call to service.
He applauded founding members who set the foundation for UTM which initially started as ‘Chilima Movement’ within DPP that pushed for his ascendancy to the party’s presidency and eventually lead it to the elections.
Turning to the new executive, Chilima asked them to learn from the party’s founders some of whom did not contest but paved the way for others to be in the driving seat while pledging their support for the movement.
He said: “UTM is not about positions. Our calling is a call to service.”
The Vice-President specifically acknowledged contributions and sacrifices of Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya, interim national chairperson Noel Masangwi, acting organising secretary Ben Chidyaonga, Chikumbutso Hiwa, Richard Makondi, Lewis Ngalande, Mzimba North legislator Agness Nyalonje Shawa, Michael Usi and Newton Kambala.
For Masangwi, Chilima proposed that he becomes UTM patron.
While stating that the party’s manifesto would be unveiled at a later date, Chilima said a UTM administration would respect media freedom and ensure that taxpayer-funded Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) is not reduced to being “a mouthpiece of a party in power”.
He also said the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) would be entrusted to discharge its functions professionally and not be a financial cashcow of political parties in power or source of employment for cronies and relations of influential people in government.
On Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi, Chilima said the parastatal would be allowed to operate as a private company to achieve efficiency while being accountable to its shareholders. He said cases of misprocurement of generators and theft of diesel for the same would be investigated holistically.
He also reiterated the ambitious promise to create a million jobs in the first 12 months.
During the convention whose official opening ceremony was attended by United States of America Amabassador Virginia Palmer and People’s Party vice-president Roy Kachale, among others, confirmed Mulanje West legislator Patricia Kaliati unopposed as secretary general.
The following legislators also went in unopposed: Olipa Chiluwa Muyaba (deputy national treasurer), Emily Chinthu Phiri (deputy director of political affairs), Joseph Chidanti Malunga (director of publicity), Paul Chibingu (director of elections), Patricia Dzimbiri (national director of women) and Maquenda Chunga (deputy national campaign director).
Others who made it to the executive unopposed included deputy director of economic development Charles Kazembe, deputy director of strategic planning, Alice Konyani Johnson, deputy director of Diaspora, Fatima Nkata, deputy director of Students Affairs, Leornard Jackson Kamatenda and deputy director of women Annie Nyadani Makuta.
In results announced by MEC and verified by audit and business advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, Levi Luwemba was voted deputy secretary general, businessperson Iqbal Omar treasurer general, legislator Willet Kalonga national organising secretary and Anita Kalinde director of political affairs with Lucius Banda as campaign director and Bon Kalindo director of youth.
Kambala, who moved from his party United Transformation Party (UTP), was perhaps one of the major losers as he lost to Omar in the race for treasurer general.
But comedian Michael Usi of Odya Zake Alibe Mlandu Movement made it as director of strategic planning and legislator Allan Ngumuya as deputy organising secretary.
Convention chairperson Masankho Banda said the gathering, which drew 892 delegates, cost about K80 million.
Former Cabinet minister in United Democratic Front, DPP and PP administrations Henry Phoya, who recently rejoined DPP, was one of the major surprises clad in UTM party cloth.
During the opening ceremony, UTM legal adviser Chikosa Silungwe read out the party’s constitution and highlighted some of the amendments, including powers vested in the party’s president to appoint a running mate who automatically assumes the position of vice-president.
Political analysts have welcomed the idea of not voting for the vice-president with Mzuzu-based political analyst Emily Mkamanga and University of Livingstonia political analyst George Phiri said people should not take it as a tradition for parties to vote for vice-presidents at their convention.