President Peter Mutharika’s three main challengers in the May 21 Tripartite Elections have not been invited to the inauguration scheduled for Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre today, The Nation has established.
Ironically, during his swearing-in on Tuesday, Mutharika urged all Malawians to unite and move on from their political differences.
When contacted yesterday, immediate past vice-president Saulos Chilima, who challenged Mutharika in the elections on a UTM Party ticket and came third, said he had not been invited to the inauguration.
He said: “I haven’t received any invitation yet. The first thing is to receive the invitation and decide on whether to go or not. As of now, there is no invitation letter. I don’t know if the party has received any.
“But if it comes later, it may be difficult to go because I may have to make travel arrangements.”
During the presidential election results impasse after Malawi Congress Party (MCP) obtained an injunction stopping Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) from announcing the winner following unresolved complaints, Chilima’s party had asked for nullification of the election to pave the way for a re-run.
On his part, MCP president Lazarus Chakwera, who came second to Mutharika after amassing 35.41 percent of the votes, said he too was not invited and that he was not even aware of the said inauguration.
A reluctant Chakwera, who said was not ready to speak on any matters responded briefly:
“I am not ready to speak on anything to the nation. On the inauguration, I am not even aware of that. Thank you.”
MCP had obtained an injunction stopping the announcement of presidential election results until votes from Nsanje, Chikwawa, Mangochi, Blantyre, Zomba Karonga, Rumphi, Nkhata Bay, Mulanje and Rumphi were verified through recounting of ballot papers.
In a separate interview, United Democratic Front (UDF) secretary general Kandi Padambo also said his party was yet to get an invitation.
But he said the UDF leader was willing to attend the inauguration should they receive an invitation.
Said Padambo: “We haven’t received any invitation yet, but if it comes, we are willing to go. Elections are over, and this is the time for parties to move together for the betterment of Malawi. But if the invitations don’t come, how can we go?”
UDF was the governing DPP’s bedfellow in Parliament between 2014 and 2019.
Asked whether government had sent out invitation to opposition party leaders, inauguration organising committee chairperson Kiswell Dakamau, who is also Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, was tight-lipped.
He said in an interview yesterday that Esmie Kainja, who is also PS for Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, was better placed to provide the information.
But when contacted, Kainja only said “all Malawians have been invited”.
In a separate interview, Principal Secretary for Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ben Botolo said United Republic of Tanzania Prime Minister, Majaliwa Kassim Majaliwa and Zimbabwe Vice-President General Constantino Chiwenga have confirmed their attendance while Zambia was yet to confirm.
Surprisingly, a programme of events that we have seen only shows former President Bakili Muluzi, who was also present during the swearing-in, to be the only prominent invited guest. The list has no names of foreign dignitaries.
Director of Public Events in the Office of President and Cabinet (OPC) Benjamin Benzani Mangira claimed in a telephone interview all parties had been invited.
“All opposition parties have been invited. The invitation letters have been sent,” he said without mentioning the parties to which the invitations had been sent.
Meanwhile, political and administrative studies lecturer at Chancellor College, Mustafa Hussein, has faulted government for snubbing main contenders in the presidential race.
In an interview yesterday, Hussein said such action defeats the spirit of unity which Mutharika preached during his swearing-in on Tuesday.
Said Hussein: “Words should have matched with action. During the swearing-in ceremony, the President called for unity, so government should have walked the talk on this issue.
“Concrete steps need to be taken to unite the country, and one such step is ensuring that all those that participated in the election are invited, it is a national event. All Malawians are supposed to attend this event.”
Speaking when he took oath of office at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre, Mutharika appealed to Malawians and his political opponents to move on after a gruelling May 21 Tripartite Elections campaign trail.
However, the President fell short of extending an olive branch to his opponents.
He said: “So, it is now the time to move on. The elections are over. There is time to fight, there is time to unite, there is time to argue and time to agree. There is time to pursue our partisan goals and time to pursue our national goals.
“This is time to unite and develop this country and now is the time. Malawi is the only country we have.”
Mutharika retained the presidency with 1 940 709 votes or 38.57 percent, followed by Chakwera with 1 781 740 votes (35.41 percent), while Chilima came third with 1 018 369 votes or 20.24 percent.