Vice-President Saulos Chilima and his UTM Party crew on Monday braved a slippery earth road in search for votes in Thyolo District.
Chilima, who is UTM Party presidential candidate in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections, had just finished addressing whistle-stop rallies at Bvumbwe and Goliati trading centres and was set for Folopensi in Thyolo West when a heavy downpour started at about 1pm.
Folopensi was the venue for the main rally and the UTM Party convoy had covered about 35 kilometres when some vehicles got stuck deep in the tea fields. Well-wishers had to push some of the stuck vehicles while vehicles for an advance party also got stuck at Jeremiya in Traditional Authority (T/A) Thomas.
The stuck vehicles included a Nissan Vanette minibus that carried journalists assigned to cover the rally. It also took community members to help get the minibus out the muddy section.
The media arrived at Folopensi at around 4.30pm and found people gathered at the venue waiting for Chilima’s arrival. By then, only UTM Party secretary general Patricia Kaliati and national executive committee members Felix Njawala and Bon Kalindo had taken their seats on the podium.
It was at 5.16pm when a self-driving Chilima accompanied by his running mate Michael Usi arrived to the welcome of a cheering crowd.
Thereafter, Kaliati asked Usi to address the gathering. Usi apologised to the audience for the delay and narrated how the country’s Vice-President had skilfully driven the vehicle on the slippery mountainous terrain.
He said: “If Chilima were somebody else, he would have given up and returned to Blantyre. But he insisted on coming to speak to you. If you don’t vote for him, that will be ungrateful.”
At 5.30pm, it was Chilima’s turn to address the people. He satirically bemoaned the bad road, saying it is not serving the people.
He said: “Timawona ngati misewu yake ndi misewu koma ndi mipita [I thought you had a road to this place, but it is a mere footpath…]. We in UTM Party have people’s welfare at heart. Roads are supposed to be made for people and not people for roads.”
Chilima spoke for eight minutes and assured people in the area that his team would return another day to address them in detail on the plans UTM Party has to improve their welfare if voted into power.
Earlier, all the speakers took a swipe at the poor state of the road which becomes impassable when it rains.
Kaliati said the condition of the road was enough reason for people in the area to vote in leaders that will give them better amenities.
She said: “What kind of road is this where vehicles get stuck when it rains? How do you people travel to the city with this problem? Please vote wisely!”
Chilima, who in the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections was picked by President Peter Mutharika from the private sector where he served as Airtel Malawi managing director to be his running mate and eventually the country’s Vice-President, broke ranks with the governing Democratic Progressive Party last June and declared he will challenge his boss in the presidential race.
The UTM Party was launched last July as United Transformation Movement before legal technicalities pushed the party to use the initials UTM to be registered.