Tonse Alliance presidential ticket pair of torchbearer Lazarus Chakwera and his running mate Saulos Chilima on Monday subtly unveiled contents of their partnership, hinting that the country may for the first time have an empowered Vice-President.
Delivering his speech at a Tonse Alliance Mega Rally at Njamba Freedom Park in Blantyre on Monday, the country’s estranged Vice-President—who is also UTM Party president—said he would be the alliance’s next presidential candidate after Chakwera in line with their rotational leadership arrangement.
He added he would double as minister of Finance should Tonse Alliance form the next government after the June 23 were repatriated from Zimbabwe with the help of Malawi Government and International Organisation for Migration [IOM]. Out of 90 samples, 12 came out positive and 26 are pending.”
He said all the 15 patients will be quarantined at Kameza Isolation Centre in Blantyre and health experts are also assessing the situation of the Karonga patient so that he is transferred to an institutional quarantine at Karonga District Hospital.
In an interview on Monday, Presidential Task-force on Covid-19 co-chairperson Professor John Phuka said Malawi’s preparedness in dealing with the pandemic is an ongoing process.
He described the capacity to test at Mwanza Border Post as a big step in the fight against Covid-19, saying it ensures that all returnees
fresh presidential election.
Said Chilima: “The leadership [of the alliance] will be rotational. I will be the next presidential candidate after Dr. Lazarus Chakwera. After me, the others [pointing to the podium] will follow. Besides being Vice-President, I will also serve as minister of Finance.”
His sentiments, which drew a round of applause from the audience, were partly corroborated on the same podium by Chakwera, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president leading the nine-party Tonse Alliance.
He said Chilima’s skills have been grossly under-utilised by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration led by President Peter Mutharika.
Chakwera, who did not comment on the rotational presidency arrangement, said: “This young man, Saulos, I prefer to call him Saulos because I am Lazarus, is a go-getter. He is an achiever. He has an impeccable track record in the corporate world and has a good understanding of the economy.
“I thought I should say this publicly. I once said this in Parliament that his talent was being put to waste instead of letting him serve Malawians. He is someone this country needs to improve public service delivery. He is someone we need to head the public sector reforms to develop Malawi.”
The Office of the Vice-President in the country is a delegated one, an arrangement that has seen Vice-Presidents, including Chilima, sidelined or victimised by the political system.
Chilima was stripped of his ministerial roles after falling out with Mutharika and DPP.
If the empowerment arrangement is implemented, it will be the first time that a running mate—who is Vice-President in-waiting—will be going to the polls with knowledge of his job description and expectations.
Tonse Alliance, which also comprises seven other parties, has been keeping under wraps details such as presidential candidate, running mate and other issues. The public only came to know the presidential candidate through a Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) notice two days before presentation of nomination papers filed under the banner of MCP.
In February 2014, Mutharika, then in opposition, introduced Chilima—then working as the first Malawian managing director of multinational Airtel Malawi—into frontline politics as his running mate in a pairing analysts described as a blend of public sector and private sector expertise.
However, the duo fell out and in June 2018 Chilima—widely known by his initials SKC—ditched DPP to lead newly-formed UTM Party, an outfit born after a section of DPP functionaries unsuccessfully campaigned for him to succeed Mutharika through what was called ‘Chilima Movement’.
On Monday’s Tonse Alliance rally was the second for the Chakwera-Chilima pair to hold together since the launch of the official campaign period. Their first joint rally was at Mzuzu Stadium upper ground on May 2. The duo was scheduled to jointly address other rallies in Kasungu and at Lukuni in Lilongwe, but Chakwera could not make it due to a bereavement in his family.
Despite the huge turnout, police were not seen providing security. Private security personnel, dressed in the alliance partners’ material, were, however, seen. The police officers present were those guarding the Vice-President, Speaker of Parliament Catherine Gotani-Hara, former president Joyce Banda and former Vice-President Khumbo Kachali, among other dignitaries.
Jubilation was the prevalent atmosphere among the thousands who attended the rally and the leadership of the alliance partners alike. Some were seen posing for photographs clad in their party colours or a combination of the MCP and UTM Party symbols.
Besides Chakwera and Chilima, other speakers at the rally included Banda, Gotani Hara, UTM Party vice-president Michael Usi, MCP first vice-president Mohamed Sidik Mia, MCP secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka and his UTM Party counterpart Patricia Kaliati as well as human rights activist-turned-politician Timothy Mtambo who is leading Citizens for Transformation Movement.
While Chakwera and Chilima reiterated their alliance’s promises to the electorate, including fighting corruption, revamping the public sector, job creation, economic empowerment of the youth and women and transforming agriculture, among others, there was digression by most of the other speakers who responded to attacks from their political opponents.
Malawi is set to hold a fresh presidential election following the February 3 judgement of a five-judge panel of the High Court of Malawi sitting as the Constitutional Court that nullified the May 21 2019 presidential election over alleged irregularities. A seven-judge panel of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal upheld the lower court’s ruling.
Chilima and Chakwera had petitioned the court to nullify the election.