Events of the past week mark a crucial moment in the politics of Malawi ahead of the May 2019 elections. In the week, Vice President Saulos Chilima dominated the political news with his trip to the United Kingdom where he held a number of engagements with the country’s state officials.
The pictures of Dr Chilima and the remarks he made on what we were told was a private trip have spiraled many a Malawians into debate again on the question regarding whether the vice president wields the integrity he preaches to be a master and advocate of, apart from rekindling the moral and legal concerns over his decision to insist on clinging to a government he does not serve.
The main question in this debate is not whether the vice president, who said was on a private visit to the Queensland, was justified to undertake engagements with the officials the UK government in what was clearly his official position – the vice president of the Republic of Malawi – but the morality to do so.
While in the UK, Dr Chilima met with the leadership of the Scottish government and held a number of public addresses and appeared on BBC’s flagship radio talk show in which he admitted that he no longer reports for duty since he left the governing party in June this year on his own accord.
As a reminder, the vice presidency in Malawi is a delegated position, meaning the occupier of the office is assigned to duty by the president. In this case, there is all certainty that Dr. Chilima did not seek approval from his boss, President Peter Mutharika, to travel abroad. Yes, certainly, because he disclosed during the talk show that he has never been in touch with the president since June.
Malawians should agree with some civil society organisations that have called for the resignation of Dr. Chilima from the DPP led government on the basis that he is lacking integrity by not voluntarily stepping down from the regime he declared he is no longer part of it.
It makes sense that in a statement issued in the past week, the Joint Civil Society Platform on Governance argue that the vice president must resign by virtue of his own admission that he is not reporting for duty as it is tantamount to stealing Malawians’ tax money.
Well thought through, this indeed puts the veep’s conduct into disrepute. It would be a matter of integrity to part ways with a company whose norms you longer subscribe to rather stay home and receive a monthly cheque for work you are not doing.
Any sound Malawian should not allow to use his tax to pay for accommodation, utilities, travel, security health and other bills for a person who is not serving them but instead running a political grouping that is campaigning to take over the leadership of the country.
Dr. Chilima’s sentiments that he left the DPP because the party and its government are corrupt are again crushed youth activist Edward Chileka Banda who argues you cannot be justified to continue clinging to a government which you criticize of all sorts of wrong doing.
The veep argues that his contract is with Malawians until 2019. Well fine and good, but the question remains, where is the integrity to continue receiving a salary for a contract you are no longer executing?
You should also concur with the chairperson of the joint civil society platform, Peter Mumba, that Dr Chilima has also shown disregard for the very constitution he swore to defend by telling the BBC that former president Joyce Banda is not linked with corruption although Cashgate happened under her watch. Mrs Banda has been named in corruption scandals, some whose related cases are still in the courts. In law, the principle is that you do not declare a suspect not guilty unless proven by the court.
Urge to President Mutharika
The Constitution of Malawi provides for the president appoint a second-vice president. This could be the solution to the current state of affairs. Malawians need a functioning office of the second in command. It has been argued by some quarters that this could lead to drainage of more public resources, but it can as well be argued we are already losing by paying a ghost worker. We are losing a lot by having the president stretch his duties since there is no one to whom he can officially delegate his duties.
The vice president would do Malawi a great deal of honor to save their money if at all he really believes in the utterances he championed during his time at the helm of the public sector reforms that people must be paid not only for the work they are doing but also their performance.
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton