Looking back at Mutharika’s Choice of Saulos Chilima: Skepticism and Surprising Outcomes

By Burnett Munthali

When former President Peter Mutharika announced Saulos Chilima as his running mate for the 2014 elections, skepticism reverberated both within and outside the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Chilima, then a relatively unknown figure in Malawian politics, was seen as an unconventional choice, stirring mixed reactions and uncertainties among political pundits and the public alike.

In 2014, Malawi’s political climate was turbulent, marked by economic challenges and public discontent. Mutharika’s decision to select Chilima, a technocrat with a background in business and academia rather than seasoned political experience, raised eyebrows within the DPP establishment. Critics questioned Chilima’s political acumen and ability to navigate the complex landscape of Malawian politics.

Within the DPP, some party loyalists viewed Chilima’s selection as a gamble, expressing concerns over his loyalty and ideological alignment. His outsider status led to speculation about his true intentions and potential conflicts within the party hierarchy. External observers also voiced doubts, citing Chilima’s lack of political pedigree and limited exposure in national governance.

Mutharika and Chilima

Despite the initial skepticism, Chilima’s tenure as Vice President under Mutharika’s administration proved transformative. He brought fresh perspectives to governance, advocating for transparency, accountability, and economic reforms. Chilima’s proactive approach resonated with Malawian youth and reform-minded citizens, positioning him as a prominent figure in national politics.

Chilima’s journey within the DPP was not without challenges. His public criticism of corruption and inefficiencies within the government led to tensions and eventually his departure from the party. Subsequently, Chilima formed the United Transformation Movement (UTM) and emerged as a formidable presidential candidate in the 2019 elections, signaling a significant realignment in Malawian politics.

Mutharika’s unconventional choice of Saulos Chilima as his running mate sparked a wave of skepticism that ultimately paved the way for political evolution and realignment in Malawi. The experience underscores the unpredictable nature of politics and the potential for transformative leadership to emerge from unexpected quarters.

In conclusion, the story of Mutharika’s selection of Saulos Chilima as his running mate serves as a reminder of the complexities and dynamics of political decision-making. What began with skepticism and uncertainty evolved into a pivotal moment in Malawi’s political history, shaping the trajectory of leadership and governance in the nation.