Malawi: Chilima Defends Association With Catholic Church, Says He Is Not Corrupt - Malawi VP Dominates Headlines

Malawi’s Vice President Saulos Chilima at the official launch of United Transformation Movement.

Vice-President Saulos Chilima on Wednesdsy evening broke his silence by announcing that he will challenge President Peter Mutharika in presidential race in the 2019 Tripartite Elections and his exclusive interview with privately -owned Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) has dominated headlines in Malawi's media.

In the 45-minute interview anchored by Zodiak managing director Gospel Kazako, Chilima addressed wide-ranging issues including what critics have been saying that he is using the influential Catholic Church as a platform for advancing his political agenda.

Chilima, 45, a devout Catholic, defended his association with the Church , saying the Catholic Church encourages its faithfuls to participate in politics but it cannot take a partisan stand to support a particular candidate.

During the interview, Kazako asked Chilima --who remains Vice-President until the end of his term next May-- if he was clean from corruption as 'those who seek equity must come with clean hands' considering he has described the country as riddled with corruption, nepotism and cronyism.

In his response, Chilima said he has not been involved in corruption but said there have been attempts to smear his name.

"I am very sure. There are two things; one is truth and one is evidence. I am very sure that I have not been involved in corruption," he said.

He continued: "I know there have been references to an issue. May be this I should not be divulging here. I sold a house to somebody [Maxwell Namata] through an estate agency, but eventually turned out the buyer was a suspect of Cashgate. But I have never been engaged in corruption [without any fear of contradiction]."

Despite echoing his concerns about rampant corruption, Chilima took some time to recognise the positive side of Peter Mutharika's government on several development initiatives such as malata and cement subsidy, community technical colleges as well as the reforms.

Chilima said there was need for Malawians to acknowledge government's success in initiating the malata and cement subsidy which has brought decent housing for poor Malawians, adding the coming in of community colleges offers skills to young people.

"On reforms I would say we have not moved with pace. We have not performed as expected," said Chilima.

Meanwhile, he has given Malawians 10 days when he will announce his political move while hinting on forming a coalition with some of the country's opposition political parties through what he christened Transformation Movement.

Livingstonia Synod-based political scientist George Phiri said Chilima had exercised his right to make a decision.

On whether time was on Chilima's side, Phiri said the Vice-President might be a person who makes his decisions strategically.

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