The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is under heavy fire for a propaganda piece leveled against Malawi Vice President and UTM leader Saulos Chilima, who DPP says was born Arafat Hamdan. Meanwhile, Malawians have vowed to vote for Vice President Chilima in 2019 Malawi Tripartite Elections even if he were born Arafat Hamdan.
In the article, which is the bone of contention, DPP operatives allege that Chilima was born in a family of 21 children. He was six months old when his alleged biological father, Jussab Hamdani, passed away. It is alleged that Vice President Chilima adopted his name at a later stage from his foster parents and upon converting to Catholicism from Islam.
However, the general response shows the propoganda as a miss among the general public who have accused the ruling party of playing petty politics.
“Adopting new names is part of almost all religions. It has nothing to do with concealing one’s identity. While Muslims go for Arabic names, Christians adopt mostly, Jewish or any names akin to that during baptism. ‘Saulo’ is a biblical figure. We all know that. What’s the issue then!” wrote Martin Njobvu in a article.
Some Malawians called the propaganda as insensitive due to its Islamophobic tone. In the article, DPP operatives stoops further low by aligning Chilima alleged birth name to Yasser Arafat who died fighting for the Palestinian independence against Israel.
“Malawi voted and embraced diversity in 1994 when the country ushered in multiparty democracy. We are a country where islamaphobia has no room. DPP must not divide this country” said James Kambwiri.
“So these cheap manoeuvres to disenfranchise Muslims or alienate him from the Catholic is far from yielding any result. Thematically, it only adds momentum to his current trajectory, and bound to backfire” added Njobvu.
In agreement with Njobvu, Taiman Uchizi Nkhata described the latest attack on Chilima by the ruling DPP as “as feeble, brittle as Puff [bound to] yield nothing”.
“We choose our own identity depending on our choice of end values that motivates us more to shape our lives” Nkhata said.
Chrispal Chitsumba took a more philosophical stance, saying “when things are falling apart, they don’t have time to choose a direction or asses it. They just find themselves in the abyss.”.
“Look for another excuse, this is old tricks for Malawian, we were told Kamuzu was from Ghana, Bakili Muluzi was from Mozambique, late Bingu wa Muthalika was from Zimbabwe. Above all, none from them speaks true culture language like Chilima. Either he is Arafat we will vote for him under his Arafat name. Let me just remind you, before I don’t know now, we were allowed to change names when doing form two”.
Others have vowed to vote for Chilima even if he had a name that sounded like Saddam Hussein, saying they are attracted to the vice president because of his “sound ideas and clean politics”.
Chilima left DPP in June to lead his UTM against the incumbent, President Peter Mutharika, who the vice president has accused of presiding over a corrupt and nepotistic government. His exit from the ruling party has punched holes in the prospects of DPP and President Peter Mutharika retaining power in 2019.
Despite being a target of innuendos from the ruling party since June, a recent Opinion Poll by University of Malawi political scientists found that Chilima’s popularity among electorates has been increasing swiftly.