President Lazarus Chakwera’s recent appointment of Paul Phiri as Deputy Commander of the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) has brought anger among soldiers.
Leaked conversations from WhatsApp circulating on internet reveal military officers are not happy and have described the decision as irregular which does not reflect the principles of change that many expected in the new government of Tonse Alliance.
According to a source at the MDF who was speaking under conditions of anonymity, Phiri who was at the time of appointment at the rank of Major General, does not have valid qualifications to assume the post of Deputy Commander of the Malawi Defence Force.
The officer said many soldiers are not happy with Phiri’s appointment because of his oppressive leadership attitude.
The officer also disclosed that before an officer is appointed to the post of Deputy Commander, one is supposed to be promoted from the post of Major General to that of Lieutenant General, yet these procedures were not followed in Phiri’s appointment.
“Many soldiers are disappointed that the president has been fooled to appoint such an incompetent and unqualified individual, some are even accusing the Chief of Staff of recommending Phiri for the position of Deputy Commander, there is a group that want to advance their political agenda and they are misleading the president,” disclosed the source.
The source further alleged that rumours within the army are that Simbi Phiri who has been one of the major sponsors of the Malawi Congress Party and who is said to have built the house of President Chakwera influenced Phiri’s appointment as Deputy Commander of the MDF.
“There is rumor that Simbi Phiri influenced the appointment of his name sake to the senior military position,” said the source
One of the concerned officers went on to say that the president was supposed to consult with the defense council before making such an appointment, but he did not consult the council on Phiri’s appointment, but, according to the source, the president was influenced by tribal consideration before making the appointment.
The source further said that the sad part was that Phiri was very close to the previous administration and he was behind the rumours that General Vincent Nundwe was planning to topple the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration a rumor that ended into Nundwe’s dismissal as army general
The whistleblower said many soldiers are also not happy with Phiri because he is oppressive and alleged that he has been delaying the professional development of fellow officers.
According to the source, Phiri at one point organised and administered examinations for senior army officers called PROMEX, but out of all the 56 officers that participated, no one passed.
“He set the examinations, typeset the papers administered the examinations himself marked the papers alone and all the 56 officers that took the examinations failed, what type of person is this? All the 56 people could not have been intelligent to pass the examinations,” said the source.
The soldiers have since written president Chakwera expressing their disappointment with the appointment of Phiri as the deputy army commander. A letter that has been circulating on the social media purportedly authored by some soldiers among other things says that the recent appointment of Phiri as deputy commander of the defense forces is a ‘grave breach’ of the trust that the soldiers had with the current administration.
According to the concerned soldiers, Phiri is a “beast, heartless, cruel, anti-social, selfish, barbaric and a nuisance to soldiers.” The letter goes to allege that Phiri is an opportunist and was part of a larger conspiracy by some lieutenants who are trying to advance their hidden agendas.
“His appointment will only bring unnecessary fear panic confusion and division among soldiers,” reads part of the letter.
The letter goes to warn Chakwera that the people that recommended the appointment of Phiri are slowly creating the president’s downfall in the 2025 presidential elections.
“If we were Chakwera and his lieutenants we could have recalled how soldiers rallied you and HRDC when in opposition from 2019 to 2020 in the streets of the country just to see things change while performing our constitutional mandate,” reads the letter.
On December 23, 2020, President Chakwera appointed Phiri as deputy MDF commander in accordance with the powers conferred on him under section 191 (2) of the Malawi Defence Act and Section 161 of the Constitution.