Men, said Franklin D. Roosevelt, are not prisoners of fate but only prisoners of their own minds.
On my mind are musings of what could be going on in the mind of one Saulos Klaus Chilima, the man whose name is currently dividing and driving opinions in Malawi’s political circles especially within the rank and file of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the youths.
Before I muse on, allow me a detour to summarise, as best as I can, the highlights of this man’s or is it this “baby’s” life.
Forging a political future:
“Baby” Saulos Klaus Chilima (SKC), born on February 12th 1973, is an economist and a politician currently serving as the Vice-President of Malawi.
He holds a (PhD) in Business Management (University of Bolton), Master of Arts in Economics – University of Malawi (2003-2005) and a Bachelor of Social Science degree – University of Malawi (1990-1994).
Picked from the private sector, Airtel to be specific, to partner President Peter Mutharika in the 2014 race, there is little doubt that he gave DPP call boys something – other than the seniors from Newland Homes – to associate with and proudly talk about as they went about rebranding the DPP which was at that time reeling from a disastrous past.
After getting baptism of fire from MCP’s Richard Msowoya in the first round of debates for presidential running mates, he quickly rallied to build himself as someone who could hold his own even on issues to do with the public sector.
His value-add to the DPP campaign was that – unlike MCP where presidential candidate and his running mate were mostly operating like ngumbi – trailing each other rally after rally; when Mutharika was in the south, Chilima went up north to speak in Tumbuka.
When Mutharika drove to the east, Chilima would go to the west, switching the parlance from Tumbuka to Chichewa.
More critically, while Mutharika – even then – looked every inch his age, Chilima complimented him with the buoyancy of a youth raring to go and of course, with the all-important knowledge of high tech.
In a word, it was a perfect match up. May be it was too good to last, hence the current state of affairs.
Reforms that were not to be:
Soon after DPP’s victory in 2014, President Mutharika, then seeing eye to eye with his counterpart, assigned Chilima to lead the much-touted Public Service Reforms.
As is always the case when Malawians set out to produce documents, the product was an excellent piece of work.
However, before the blue print could be rolled out public sector-wide, noting that the Public Service Reforms Commission’s (PSRC)’ mandate would expire in June 2016; Vice-President Saulos Chilima presented two options to President Peter Mutharika.
The two choices were: either reverting the reforms to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) or extending the commission’s mandate for another year so that it could oversee implementation.
Mutharika chose to extend the commission’s tenure for just a further six months instead of the Vice President’s one-year suggestion.
Why the abrupt change? Why reverting to OPC when the OPC has volumes upon volumes of reform proposals that never saw the light of day? … were some of the questions that were asked.
Political analyst Boniface Dulani noted that it was obvious from the onset that the reforms were destined to fail because there was no political will from the President, most politicians in the governing DPP and some top civil servants.
“Not everyone was happy with the reforms. There was a tug of war between those who wanted the reforms and the powerful. The powerful have won because they are the beneficiaries of the status quo.”
I beg to disagree with the esteemed Dulani.
The phobia was not for reforms per se. It was rather the fear that the reforms would succeed.
Had the reforms succeeded, never mind the fact that the entire country would have benefited, Chilima – the man tasked with the seemingly impossible task – would have been seen to have delivered and done something to show for the hefty perks we pay him as a Vice-President in a country where many people have held presidential, ministerial and other ‘fattening’ positions for years and years with nothing tangible to show.
Man is smart but…
Harry Belafonte knew a thing or two when he crooned that man is smart but the woman is smarter.
Let us face it gentlemen and admit that not only are women the fairer sex and smarter, but they are also the braver breed!
Check this: when men were just murmuring their praises for the Vice-President whenever he showed up at a disaster area or at a basketball pitch, and while a man would have disowned the leaked WhatsApp chat now christened ‘Hurricane Callista’; Mrs Callista Mutharika did exactly the opposite .
In a chondigwera, chindigwere, a dead body does not dread decaying style and fashion; she escalated her message through radio interviews, arguing the case:
- first, why DPP – IF at all it wants to win in 2019 – it should look to Chilima;
- secondly, why Malawians – if they want different results – should dare to try people with different mind-sets and
- finally why Malawians – if they want good governance – they should go beyond singing “…that we be free from fear…” to actually becoming courageous!
Ladies and gentlemen, lend me your ears. I want to be totally honest: I never remotely thought I would ever hold Callista in awe. Not after her defense of the arrogant incompetence that hounded and tortured us between 2009 and 2012.
However, listening to her on the Zodiac clip gone viral, my faith in humanity has somewhat been restored. Who knew that Callista could actually throw all caution and protocol to the wind and challenge the status quo?
How many of us can do half what Callista has done if our in-laws were the incompetent culprits involved? Enough respect to Madame Callista.
In our Malawi, no circus is complete if the traditional chiefs have not butted in. I was therefore not surprised to learn that Paramount Chief Ngongoliwa deemed it necessary to weigh in saying that he personally supports the Mutharika-Chilima pair for the 2019 elections on the basis that,
- first, that it is a good pair because Chilima knows it was Mutharika who chose and settled for him and likewise. In other words, just stating the obvious.
- second, that Mutharika knows he made it with support from Chilima and that “Malawi is developing and you can see that for yourself and, obviously, some people are not happy.”
Let us pause on this (second) one.
While it is quite possible that in Paramount Chief Ngongoliwa’s area there is
development galore, it is ‘development’ that Callista and many other Malawians need microscopes to see.
But since it is rude to accuse elders of Ngongoliwa’s status of knowingly peddling lies, it is equally possible that the development Ngongoliwa sees is so concentrated in his area that other parts of country are starving, hence the increasing clamour for Chilima to take over DPP and hopefully balance the ‘development’ nationwide, making sure – while he is at it – that the industry has energy with which to create wealth and that the youth, after graduating, have jobs or resources with which to go into self-employment.
This however is a subject for another day. Reverting to the matter at hand, Ngongoliwa complained that Chilima is not helping matters by remaining mute.
“The Vice-President should have come out by now and told Malawians that he was not party to such calls. He should have come open and told Malawians that Mutharika is his father and he supports his candidacy,” Ngongoliwa said, concluding that if Chilima came out, this matter would have been closed long time ago.
Quo vadis Chilima?
I am only guessing here, but I am willing to bet my blog on this: Ngongoliwa is being totally naïve.
What makes him think that Chilima will “come into the open and tell Malawians that Mutharika is his father blah, blah, blah”?
I would urge the good old Chief to think again, just as I want to encourage Chilima to think, arrive at a decision and act fast.
Timing, in momentous situations like this, is everything.
While proverbs may advocate that silence is golden, and that good things come to those who wait, they also caution us against waiting too long. Was it not our ancestors who coined the adage kayitana kavula?
While it is outright unfair to force SKC into a rushed decision, he ought to know that a week is a long time in politics.
I will leave this at that.
Before I sign off, SKC should remember that men are not prisoners of fate, they are rather prisoners of their own minds and indeed now might be the time for SKC to emancipate himself from mental slavery because none but himself can free his mind.
I rest my case.