Barely four days after asking Vice-President Saulos Chilima to resign, the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has made a U-turn on its call, saying there is nothing more it can do.
But DPP spokesperson Nicholas Dausi, who is also Minister of Information and Communications Technology, claimed in an interview on Monday that SKC—as Chilima is known after his initials—is refusing to quit because he does not want to lose his benefits.
He said: “There is nothing more we can do now. You know John Adams resigned in America in the 1800s because he was against the President, and just recently Margaret Thatcher, when she was Prime Minister [of Great Britain], three senior Cabinet ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Geoffrey Howe resigned regardless of being voted together.”
Ironically, in 2005, then president Bingu wa Mutharika voluntarily resigned from the United Democratic Front (UDF) which sponsored his presidential ticket in the 2004 General Elections and formed DPP. However, he did not resign as Head of State. His vice-president then, Cassim Chilumpha, remained in UDF.
Dausi’s remarks followed Chilima’s refusal to resign despite numerous calls from DPP over his strong criticism of government and subsequent resignation from the governing party.
During the Southern Region launch rally of United Transformation Movement (UTM)—a political grouping sponsoring Chilima’s presidential candidacy in the 2019 Tripartite Elections—in Blantyre on Sunday, Chilima said the Cabinet ministers calling for his resignation should understand that he was not handpicked, but appeared on the presidential ballot alongside President Peter Mutharika in the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections.
Dausi’s sentiments during the Monday interview are in sharp contrast to a strongly-worded statement he signed in which he rebuked Chilima for, among others, criticising a government he is part of, failing to report alleged corrupt cases he has been citing and making voter rigging allegations.
Besides Dausi, other Cabinet ministers who addressed the Friday news conference were Goodall Gondwe (Finance, Economic Planning and Development), Henry Mussa (Industry, Trade and Tourism) and two trained lawyers Bright Msaka (Education, Science and Technology) and Samuel Tembenu (Justice and Constitutional Affairs).
Reacting to the ministers’ call for Chilima to quit, political analyst Henry Chingaipe, in an interview with our sister newspaper, Weekend Nation, questioned the rationale behind the calls.
He argued that the Office of the Vice-President is protected by the Constitution and described the DPP action as much ado about nothing.
Said Chingaipe: “The question is, is what the ministers saying having any merit? Perhaps, what is happening is politically untenable, but the office is a constitutional office. What they are looking for is a political solution.”
Between 2004 and 2009, the DPP administration under Bingu also attempted to force Chilumpha out of office on the basis of ‘constructive resignation’, but the courts saved the former VP.
The same scenario happened between 2009 and 2012 when Joyce Banda was VP under Bingu to the extent that the party attempted to rape the Constitution to prevent Banda from ascending to the presidency in line with constitutional order following Bingu’s death.