President Peter Mutharika yesterday made an uncharacteristic move by openly praising Vice-President Saulos Chilima as his son and proclaiming that the two have an excellent working relationship.
Speculation has been rife that the State machinery and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) were sidelining Chilima, who joined active politics in 2014 after being picked as Mutharika’s running mate in the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections, in an attempt to ditch him ahead of the 2019 elections.
But as the President arrived in Lilongwe yesterday and addressed a rally at Biwi Triangle, several speakers, including Mutharika, gave Chilima unprecedented mention and respect, something the Vice-President only dreamt of in recent times.
Said the President: “I saw him playing basketball and I was very impressed. The Vice-President is my son. Timagwirizana kwambiri [Our relationship is excellent], don’t listen to what people say.”
On a lighter note, the President made a comment about Chilima’s participation in the Central Zone Basketball fundraising match as captain for Civo Bucks, remarking that he is too youthful.
Chilima also received the honour of asking the President to address the crowd, another rare assignment for him in recent times.
For some time, the taxpayer-funded Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) had visibly snubbed airing events of the Vice-President, but on Saturday there were two stories aired, one about his participation at the Central Zone Basketball League (Cezobal) fundraiser and the event commemorating Archbishop of Lilongwe Archdiocese Tarcizio Ziyaye’s 25 years in episcopate.
The Vice-President’s engagement have also started appearing on the government Facebook page, Official Malawi Government Online from Saturday with the coverage of the basketball fundraising event.
In his remarks, Chilima conveyed birthday wishes to the President and told the crowd that it was time to work hard so that in 2019, the works of Mutharika and DPP should speak for themselves.
Another indication that Chilima is back in the fold was when he made mention that at a rally which the DPP secretary general Greselder Jeffrey had called earlier, the party planned to expound on its policies and development agenda direction in detail.
Mutharika also responded to criticism aimed at his government made at the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) rally in Ngabu over the weekend.
The President said MCP leadership had sold the party to a businessperson and former Cabinet minister Muhammad Sidik Mia, who was formally welcomed to MCP on Saturday, at the alleged cost of K200 million.