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Saulos Chilima: A masqueraded Messiah or a devil not yet known?

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Frank Kamanga

Historically, in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed is king. This is probably why -and it is a worldwide phenomenon- desperate peoples around the globe are hanging by the slenderest of threads, putting their hope and trust in figures that either present themselves, or are being portrayed as modern-age “Messiahs”, vowing to revolutionize normative standards, insidiously exploiting the very evident political disaffection of the people with, and disengagement from, the process of their own governments.

This is what is going on in Malawi right now. But fear not, people, we are actually the last on the bandwagon (after the US, Japan and a string of European countries). The media and political heavyweights in this country appear to have aligned themselves with the Vice President Saulos Chilima, whom they depict as a kind of Savior, capable of carrying forward the flame of hope, renewal and positive change at all levels. Undoubtedly, the renaissance of Malawians needs bold messengers, prepared to go through fire and water to stand for what they think is right- for country and for self.

Let us be honest at this point. Politics is not a sphere of “unselfish interests”, nor will it ever be. The aforementioned observation inherently begs the question: are former cabinet Minister Patricia Kaliati, DPP youth leader Louis Ngalande, National Governing Council (NGC) member Noel Masangwi and Mulanje South legislator Bon Kalindo in Chilima’s camp because they genuinely believe in his value as potential leader or is it only because they were left out of the DPP gravy train? In politics, more often than not, it is the convergence of interests that matters far more than the concurrence of ideas and ideals.

So, it would be safe to assume that if they are there, they are promised or they simply believe that they have something to gain… It is actually not a leap of though, taking into account Chilima’s history, to surmise that the evolution of their professional trajectory is or will be in safe hands.

Let us all remember the case of Rafael Kamoto (who also happens to be the uncle of his wife), who Chilima initially assigned to the MRA (Malawi Revenue Authority) and subsequently redeployed to the MERA (Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority) as Chief Executive officer (we all remember the colourful scandal with MERA and Kamoto, accused of diverting K3bn to Admarc to buy maize, it did not well). Friends such as Lucas Kondowe -assigned to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB), although it did not last long-, and Andrew Kombatira -initially employed by MACRA and later moved to the Postal Services-, also benefited from Chilima’s ample generosity. Let us not forget -of course- of the armada of his “buddies” assigned to the boards of the “Civil Service Reform Committee” in 2016.

After all is said and done, this is really not such a big surprise. This country knows corruption quite well. What is unsettling, nevertheless, is the fact that this behaviour comes from someone who allegedly left his privileged position at Airtel, out of a genuine, inner urge to serve Malawians. He might have neglected to mention, however, that his position was actually on the line, since the company had already decided not to renew Chilima’s contract, but instead opted to designate his the deputy Maurice Newa as the new Managing Director (at the time, Newa was allegedly coaxed by Airtel to deputise Chilima, so as to take over from him, once his contract was over in June that year). Although things did not go as planned, the Newa-Chilima somewhat tumultuous relationship is not news to anyone (Newa was also Chilima’s boss when they both worked for Carlsberg), and this is decidedly one of the reasons that he did not hesitate to partner with the current President when he was approached.

Being a man of ulterior motives is not that reproachful, nowadays. One could argue that it is the rule, not the exception. What is reproachful, nonetheless, is preaching morality…verging on moralism, without the necessary, non-negotiable, moral absolutes. As the old saying goes “clean up your own backyard before you go knocking on your neighbor’s door”;

this wise proverb seems particularly fitting in this case. Integrity is not a process or a practice to be employed at one’s discretion; it is a principle, the underlying fabric of moral culture that should guide all actions. Malawians must make sure that their interests are not championed by the rancorous, the misguided and the tainted. Much less by the…freeloaders.

Be careful whom you trust with your dreams and hopes, Malawians, because they are both utterly precious commodities. “Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help” (Psalm 146:3)

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