President Peter Mutharika on Monday met Vice-President Saulos Chilima in an attempt to cool down rising temperatures over who leads Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in next year’s Tripartite Elections.
The meeting, which sources said was held in private between the two leaders, was arranged by three Cabinet ministers who met Chilima at his Lilongwe Area 12 residence on Tuesday last week.
“Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe, Justice Minister Samuel Tembenu and Education Minister Bright Msaka were sent to meet the Vice President to, among other issues, discuss his position as regards challenging the President,” a source close to the meeting said Tuesday.
DPP is split since former first lady Callista Mutharika publicly endorsed Chilima, saying Mutharika, her brother-in-law, is too old to contest in next year’s elections.
Mutharika turns 80 and Chilima will be 46 years old next year.
The three ministers are said to have asked Chilima to withdraw his challenge, a suggestion he shot down.
According to State House sources, after Chilima refused to agree to their demands, a meeting was arranged for him to meet the President.
But, when contacted to confirm or deny the reports Tuesday, Tembenu denied being part of the delegation that went to meet Chilima.
Goodall could not be reached for comment as he is said to be in China while Msaka’s phone went unanswered on several attempts.
The meeting between Mutharika and Chilima was the first since calls for Mutharika to resign and hand over the mantle to his deputy started. It lasted about two hours.
State House Press Secretary, Mgeme Kalirani, Tuesday expressed ignorance about the State House meeting between the President and Chilima despite confirming to Zodiak Broadcasting Station that the meeting took place on Monday.
“I do not know anything about the meeting. I do not know if at all they met or not,” he said when asked about the meeting and its agenda Monday.
Chilima’s movement has been growing within the ranks and file of DPP in recent months with support from some Members of Parliament (MPs) and other influential members of the party.
Mutharika has also received a fair share of support, with 50 MPs out of 86 publicly endorsing him as their sole candidate for next year’s elections.
Other party heavyweights— led by vice-president for the Southern Region George Chaponda, former presidential adviser and influential DPP member Ben Phiri, businessperson Leston Mulli, among others— want Mutharika to contest in 2019.
Last month, Chaponda hinted that Mutharika would face no challenger at the convention.
Over the weekend, Chilima condemned his own government, accusing the administration of condoning high-level corruption. He also warned that the country would collapse if corruption continued at the same pace.
His remarks, as expected, attracted a backlash from his critics who said his comments have come too late.
Government spokesperson, Nicholas Dausi, lashed out at the Vice-President. He challenged him to find solutions to the challenge of corruption as he is well placed as the “second most powerful man in the administration”.
Dausi, who is also government spokesperson, wondered why Chilima was condemning a government he is part of.
Chilima is yet to come out in the open to declare his challenge against his boss while Mutharika has come out in the open and made known his intentions to contest for the presidency on the party’s ticket.