As Malawi gears for the next general election in 2019, the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Director of Operations, Ben Phiri, has rolled out a campaign for leadership in the party at its forthcoming convention and is touting for the re-election of President Peter Mutharika for a final five year term from 2019-2024.
Among the many initiatives, Phiri has reportedly printed his cloth for DPP leadership campaign , t-shirts and over the weekend launched a K10 million worth inter-sports trophy in Thyolo central constituency which among other disciplines will include football, netball and bawo games.
A media visibility campaign has also be rolled out in several news outlets and an exclusive interview on Zodiak TV when he was a guest in the "Cruise 5" show hosted by Joab Frank Chakhaza. The youth bridgade in his support have also come handy on social media to tout him as the DPP's cornerstone.
During the interview on Zodiak, Phiri said he is backing Mutharika and he will remain his front line troop in the political front.
"The fact that one run a family, business or a church doesn't make that person a good [State] president. Presidency is a serious thing that can't be given to every Jim and Jack. I can challenge you that there's no any better person to rule this country now and 2019 than my President Muntharika, we don't have alternative than him. I will fully support and campaign for him , I will do everything that I can do to my capability just for him to return the presidency in 2019, he will rule till 2024 until God give us the alternative that time," Phiri said.
Phiri also dismissed assertions of wrongful enrichment, saying when he was joining politics in 2007, he already had eight houses under his name and one is in England.
"One of the problems that as a nation we have is envy, no wonder it found its way into the national anthem, people would love to see a foreigner owning lands, big house , companies and everything not their fellow Malawian.
"Even you if you start a company today people will call you corrupt without any basis. They would love to see Indians, Burundian and refugees owning properties and getting rich in this country. No one ever tried to probe or just questions those foreigners where their money is coming from, we just take them as holy and deserve to have those but not a Malawian."
Phiri continued: "I got my first house in my own name in 2003 in England , there after in 2005 got one in Kanjedza, Sunnyside and when I was joining politics in 2007 I had eight houses under my name, those of you who thinks I got rich because of politics then they don't know me."
He said his journey to being rich started from a humble beginning.
"I always remember my humble beginning, because I was doing something God promoted me from sweeping, moping in church to one carrying a bag of Apostle Dr Madalitso Mbewe [of Calvary Family Church], he then promoted me from carrying Apostle Mbewe bag to the one carrying President Muntharika bag, because I was doing something God promoted me through that way, let's keep working hard and stop complaining while we are idle," he said.
And speaking to his supporters at Thyolo Community Ground on Saturday , Phiri was quick to mention that everything going on now in the party is about making sure that Mutharika finishes his decade-long tenure in 2024.
"This sports trophy is not about me or anyone else besides our party leader Professor Mutharika who must be re-elected in 2019 at all costs. Let us all unite for this cause," he said.
But he could not comment on his ambitions to run for a parliamentary seat in Thyolo central and the position he is vying for in DPP at the convention.
He reiterated what he calls an obvious fact that Mutharika will easily win his second term in office come 2019 due to his impeccable performance since he was voted into power in 2014.
"It is more certain now than before that Professor Mutharika will be given another mandate by Malawians in 2019. This is as a result of his commitment to delivering his campaign promises through national and sustainable development. He is the only one among all aspiring candidates who has the interest of Malawians at heart. People from all across the country are ready to give our beloved President another term of office in 2019," said Phiri.
He pointed out several key development initiatives that make APM's re-election a foregone conclusion. These include Affordable Housing, Public Sector Reforms, Skills Development through community technical colleges, infrastructure development, stabilization of the economy, improved foreign direct investment among others.
The Director of Operations, who is also fondly referred to as "Field Marshal" or "Kagame" in the political circles, backed the rationale of starting the campaign wave in Thyolo as it is home of the State President.
In a true spirit of nationalism most of Mutharika's key projects and programmes have been rolled out in other districts leaving out Thyolo and few others for latter phases.
To the surprise of many, Mutharika's 20 member cabinet has not minister from his home district.
In view of this, Phiri promised that Thyolo too will get its share of Mutharika's development before his term expires in 2024.
The youthful political firebrand further promised the people of Thyolo that President Mutharika will soon give them a stadium and new District Commissioner's office complex.
Other districts that have new stadia include Mangochi, Mulanje, Karonga, Nkhatabay, Dedza, Rumphi and Ntcheu.
Moving forward, Phiri said in his capacity as DPPP director of field operations together with other members of the ruling party's executive will tour all corners of the country in a bid to ratchet up support for Mutharika ahead of 2019 polls.