…His supporters claim SG has no powers to call for convention
Following an announcement by the Secretary General of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Grezeldar Jeffrey, that the party will hold its National Convention next month, June, the Saulos Chilima camp is seemingly panicking.
Two camps have emerged within the DPP with one preferring Chilima for presidential candidate in 2019 while another wants incumbent Head of State Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika to be the party’s torchbearer. The latter has one more term to serve as President of the Republic of Malawi until 2024.
In a press release dated May 30, 2018, the DPP Secretary General announced the governing DPP “will hold its convention in June, 2018 and that the date of the convention will be announced by the Chairperson of the convention”.
A DPP Ntional Governing Council member told us that following that announcement, the Chilima camp has arranged a press conference at Peacock Hotel in Lilongwe on Thursday, May 31, 2018, at 2:30 PM “to discredit both the announcement and the convention because the so-called Chilima Movement is aware they cannot succeed in their quest to topple His Excellency President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika at a DPP National Convention”.
“In his desperate attempt to become DPP presidential candidate in the May 21, 2019 elections, Vice President Dr. Saulos Chilima has mobilized his few lieutenants, including Blantyre City East DPP parliamentarian, Noel Masangwi and councilor Louis Ngalande, to discredit DPP’s announcement to hold a National Convention, calling it a “sham”.
Ngalande confirmed their fears in an interview on Wednesday and emphasized Chilima and “his team” may not contest at the DPP National Convention.
“Chilima will not participate in a convention that is only aimed to rubberstamp President (Peter) Mutharika. We will be issuing a statement at the press conference tomorrow that we are ready to resign from the DPP and forge our own political path. We have the goodwill of Malawians and we can proceed on our political agenda without relying on DPP,” said Louis Ngalande, one of the Chilima’s most trusted henchmen behind the press conference in Lilongwe on Thursday.
“Our Chilima will not participate in such a convention. We know it will be stage-managed to endorse an unpopular candidate. We will not be part of a campaign to deceive Malawians,” Ngalande said, falling short of disclosing what other options the ‘movement’ has to counter the alleged DPP’s ‘ulterior’ moves.
But a ‘concerned’ DPP member, who preferred anonymity, told this publication Chilima must tread carefully on this matter because playing it against the ‘core’ DPP and President Mutharika, would be the end of his political career.
He said: “No person can win the presidency without the support of a major political party. Whatever ambitions the Vice President may have, he will not be able to accomplish the top office without the support of the DPP because he would not have a single, broader power base to rely on”.
He said Chilima has not initiated any meaningful political activities since
he became State Vice President. Except for leading the DPP campaign for the parliamentary by-elections in Mchinji, “where DPP lost miserably”, the Vice President has not fully participated in DPP party politics.
“He has chosen to maintain an elitist disposition. It is, therefore, surprising that all of a sudden, the Vice President wants to ride on the back of the DPP to achieve selfish personal ambitions.
“It is our candid view that the Vice President must be told in no uncertain terms that the presidency is not given to an individual on a silver platter like the manner the vice president position was offered to him by His Excellency President Mutharika. One has to work hard to earn. But most importantly, the people must give it to you through democratic elections,” she said.
The other issue they want to add is that the SG has not powers to call for a convention .
Meanwhile, an impecable source close to Chilima camp told this publication that at the planned press conference the group would not hide its disagreement with the secretary general saying she does not have powers to call for convention.
This according to our source is last ditch attempt to delay the convention in order to mobilise since they know they have no numbers to carry the day at the elective conference.
“Three things will emerge at the pro-Chilima camp presser. First we will claim that we are being barred from attending the convention. Second issue is that we will also claim that some youth have been given money to beat us up. The last point is that SG has no powers to call for a convention,” revealed the source.
Meanwhile, another highly placed source in DPP has confided that an NGC which is there in an acting capacity since all the position felt vacant upon the expiry of their term shall meet soon to decide on the date and set up a committee for the indaba.
It is yet to be seen what the Chilima Movement press conference will achieve in the light of the prevailing DPP power struggle.