BY KENSON BENGO
Although UTM is the second most senior political party in the Tonse Alliance after the Malawi Congress Party(MCP), most people can testify that the what remains of the party is only a footnote on the media. Beyond that, it appears UTM has been obliterated by the brutal world of politics. The party does not have any visible structure(s) and most of its members are either disgruntled or have left altogether.
In the last parliamentary election, UTM got only four MPs in the 193 member parliament. This is because the party does not have structures and a solid base of support in the rural areas of the country. Most of the people who used to throng UTM political rallies were mostly swing voters, comprising young urbanites, a constituency that is also famous for not registering during elections. This voting block is also made of the social media generation, and is currently the one which is insulting UTM self-proclaimed President Saulos Chilima the most for making unrealistic promises during the campaign period, and not fulfilling any of them. This voting block is the one posting videos of Chilima doing push-ups on campaign stage, and is asking the question: ‘where has all this taken us to? ’. They are saying Chilima tried to punch above his weight but failed catastrophically.
Chilima is currently busy enriching himself and has completely abandoned his party. The UTM National Executive has never met, not even once, since the fresh presidential election to do a postmortem and perhaps chart a way forward. He avoids meeting (even one-on-one) with members of the party’s executive for reasons that are best known by himself. Instead of empowering the party or its members, Chilima is focused on empowering his family and close friends. Members of the party who fought alongside him to remove DPP from power have been completely forgotten. His foot soldiers like Allan Ngumuya, Felix Njawala, George Saonda, Noel Masangwi, Lewis Ngalande, Richard Makondi, Ben Chidyaonga and others are currently languishing in the doldrums for lack of business opportunities and support. Their non-stop cries have consistently fallen on deaf ears and he avoids meeting them. They don’t know which direction the party is heading to.
Chilima does not care about UTM. The people that he sits down with are friends and relatives like Chikosa Silungwe, Joshua Valera, Khwesi Msusa, Kushi Unyolo, and decisions, including those to do with the party are made by this crew often as they drink their Heineken at Chilima’s residence. These people are more important to Chilima than the UTM National Executive, which is why he does not care whether it meets or not.
To underline the fact that Chilima does not care about the people who fought alongside him against DPP in the trenches, and that UTM is subservient to his family, he persuaded PS for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lucky Sikwese to remove the name of UTM’s Anita Kalinde and replace it with that of his mother in law, Margret Kamoto, as Malawi’s Ambassador to Zambia. That is not a mark of a selfless leader who has the welfare of his team at heart. Rather, it is a trait of a selfish person who wants everything for himself.
One National Executive member reveals that Chilima is constantly pleading with his team to calm down as this appears to be more of an MCP government than a UTM government. However, people are asking as to why he keeps grabbing all the opportunities in the same context of an ‘MCP government’ like sending his mother in law to a diplomatic position, and amassing wealth for himself, building hotels and earning a lot of money through kickbacks on government contracts.
Now, the wealth that Chilima is creating for himself will likely attract the attention of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB). For example, Chilima bought a house from Maxwell Namata, a Cashgate convict who served a prison sentence for CASHGATE. The house is believed to have been acquired using CASHGATE proceeds. Namata committed suicide under mysterious circumstances soon after he was seen at Chilima’s house. ACB opened a file on this and Malawians are yet to be told as to what may have happened at Chilima’s house leading to that tragic loss of life.
The UTM leader now finds himself sandwiched between the rock and the hard place. His core constituency of urban supporters has lost trust in him, and will likely not give him the overwhelming support and wow factor they gave him in the last election. Most of the promises that he made to them have not been fulfilled, and will likely not be fulfilled. The party is non existent in the rural areas and looking at the pace the party is going now, it is unlikely that it can re-build before the next election.
The team that fought alongside him with dedication, including using their own personal resources to ensure victory against the DPP has now seen through Chilima and concluded that he does not have a soul, and that he only wanted to use them as axes. They will likely not give him support this time round. Chilima will be alone fighting a lone battle because that is what it is. Chilima has failed as leader of UTM; he has failed his compatriots in the party. The team that used to sing relentlessly on social media in his praise has gone dead quite like a cat has eaten out its tongue. The party does not have resources.
Chilima is the only one in the party who is raking untold wealth but he has chosen to keep that to himself. According to its constitution, the party is also due to hold its national elective conference, or convention to fill up various positions in the National Executive, including that of President. However, the silence about the UTM convention is so loud and deafening. Members, including Chilima himself, do not want to go to a convention for fear of their positions. Obviously, they will cite the lack of resources as reason. This is one of the reasons the party is slowly sliding into a silent death. The epitaph has already been written by Saulos Chilima, or is it SKC?