- As leaked audio attacks ministers
- Violence irks Chilima
A day after DPP cadets caused commotion at Parliament, there are signs of a widening rift within the party over support for Vice-President Saulos Chilima’s candidature in 2019 following a leaked audio clip, which questions loyalty of some gurus, including Cabinet ministers.
Chilima has since condemned violence perpetrated by members of his own Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) at Parliament Building in Lilongwe on Friday.
A leaked social media telephone conversation, we could not independently verify, purported to be between Cabinet minister Kondwani Nankhumwa and the party’s secretary general (SG) Gressielder Jeffrey centred on how the alleged Chilima camp was gaining more support. It also questioned the allegiance of Cabinet ministers Henry Mussa and Joseph Mwanamvekha, among other issues.
Our efforts to get hold of Jeffrey and Nankhumwa proved futile as we went to press, as their phones went unanswered. However, Jeffery told Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) when asked about the matter, that she could not comment as she had not listened to the audio clip.
But Mussa in an interview yesterday sounded bitter that he could not be trusted and that he could belong to Chilima’s camp.
He said: “I have listened to the conversation and what the SG is saying about me is utter nonsense and childish. I don’t know what she is talking about. My loyalty is to President Mutharika and the party, no one else.
“My conscious is clear. It is very unfortunate that a senior member like her would stoop so low to discuss something about me which is not true. This is nonsense and childish and I demand an apology from her.”
Mussa said it would have been something else if it were President Peter Mutharika questioning his loyalty.
“How can she talk about me like that? Where was she when I was sleeping on the floor with President Mutharika in a cell in Lilongwe?” he queried.
Mwanamvekha, who Jeffrey suspected in the conversation that he may not be one of them, laughed it off, but reserved his comment on the basis that he was yet to listen to the conversation.
“I have just been told by a number of people, I am yet to listen to it,” he said in an interview last evening.
The leak came out after DPP cadets embarrassed President Mutharika at Parliament in Lilongwe on Friday, where they disrupted opening of the budget session and attacked their own members, legislators Noel Masangwi and Patricia Kaliati, allegedly for supporting Chilima’s presidential candidacy.
Jeffrey is in the audio heard saying she was also suspicious of Mwanamvekha, claiming as Agriculture minister, he never took instructions on how to handle fertiliser subsidy coupons to help party members.
“Bwana [boss], you remember I have been telling you? I told you this man [Chilima] has everything in place. We just cheat the bwana (President) about the State intelligence; it is a useless intelligence and that’s why this government has been infiltrated. Chilima knows everything and he is doing his own things.
“When issues about Cabinet reshuffle are discussed, proposals that we will put Jeffrey there, you find that those issues are out. There is no secret. Bwana that mwana [child] is gone, he is not turning back. Masangwi is not coming back,” Jeffrey is heard complaining in the clip.
She said Chilima told her that even if the President attempts to pick him as a running mate, he would not accept it. She said the Veep told her that he would only remain silent, but did not disclose what he is up to.
Jeffrey claims that when Chilima had a function recently; Masangwi and others were all present.
Nankhumwa, who is Minister of Local Government and Community Development is heard telling Jeffrey that Masangwi was contacted that he might be appointed into Cabinet alongside Kaliati, but Masangwi is said to have responded that he was not interested as the appointment may not last.
Masangwi was not also available to confirm the claims.
But Jeffrey said the two could not be trusted if they were appointed into Cabinet.
“Bwana that is why I said we really need to meet and discuss with the bwana when he returns. We have to advise him to call for an NGC [National Governing Council] meeting and we observe if they are going to talk about those issues.
“Then, later, we call for a convention, even if Chilima contest, there is no way he is going to win, never. They should not divide our party. He [Chilima] told me that the bwana (President) asked him to remain silent, and he [the President] would also remain silent, but he said he was surprised that the President [on his return from Scotland] spoke about it,” the SG says.
Jeffrey said former first lady Callista Mutharika is not mad and is a top-notch politician and wife to the late president Bingu wa Mutharika.
Callista was the first person to openly support Chilima’s presidential candidacy, arguing her in-law, the current President, was too old to run for the presidency in May next year and that DPP cannot win with him.
Mustafa Hussein, a political commentator based at Chancellor College, said the leak of the phone conversation was a clear sign that all was not well in the governing party, adding that it was unfortunate the discussion was between two senior members.
He said there seemed to be no transparency and accountability in the party.
DPP spokesperson Francis Kasaila could also not be reached yesterday on his mobile phone on several attempts.
Catholic bishops, in their latest pastoral latter titled ‘A call for a new era’, appealed to political parties to embrace intra-party democracy.
Meanwhile, Chilima in a statement says the attack on Kaliati and Masangwi at Parliament Building was most unfortunate and unacceptable.
Chilima, until yesterday, had not said anything after former first lady encouraged him in April to represent the DPP in next year’s polls.
Chilima, in the statement signed by his press officer Pilirani Phiri, says the setting ablaze of DPP lawmaker Bon Kalindo’s car at his house was an act of barbarism. Kalindo was one of DPP members that supported Callista’s statement.
Kalindo, in an interview yesterday, said he suspected DPP members plotted the torching of his car to silence him, but he challenged that his position remains the same.
In the statement, Chilima says: “When we voted for multiparty democracy in 1993, after a gallant fight against the brutality that existed at the time, we said goodbye to a dark age.
“We, as the people of Malawi, should not, therefore, allow any individual or group of individuals masquerading as democrats to take us back to the era of death and darkness in pursuit of their own selfish interests.
“The acts of the last 36 hours are primitive, uncivilised and satanic and have no space in modern Malawi.”
The Vice-President urges all peace-loving Malawians to resist this and to refrain from being used by selfish individuals whose aim is to tear the nation apart.
He said no one should be threatened or intimidated for expressing their political, religious or any views at any time anywhere in the country.
“Secondly, what happened in the august House as the President was delivering the State of the Nation Address is both unprecedented and deplorable. We have to respect the leadership of this country regardless of any discontent we may contain in our minds from time to time,” says Chilima.
But Hussein said what is happening in DPP is a sign that political parties in Malawi have failed to embrace intra-party democracy.
He commended the Vice-President for condemning the Friday violence, adding that President Mutharika should have been the first to condemn the violence that happened right in his face.
Minister of Information Nicholas Dausi, who is government spokesperson, told us on Friday that what happened at Parliament was regrettable.
Chilima’s spokesperson, Phiri, declined to make further comments, apart from the statement issued.