Malawi government has removed Vice-President Saulos Chilima on protocol list as observed on Wednesday in official communication on the departure of President Peter Mutharika to Zambia for Comesa summit and the second-in-command conspicuously missed at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe as Mutharika left the country.
The vice president's press office could not say why Chilima was not at the airport to see his boss off as has been the case in the past foreign trips of the President.
But the two top citizens have had a strenuous relationship since Chilima openly wanted to challenge the President at the recent [July 1-3] Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) convention.
Chilima withdrew his candidature for the party presidency after his supporters were harassed and tortured by notorious DPP cadets sent by senior party officials on a move to deter him from running for the top job.
At the airport, 82 year old Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe dismissed the military parade when the President jetted, an indication that he is now an acting president.
Mutharika is expected back in the country on Thursday but lawyers say it is unconstitutional to delegate presidential jobs to a cabinet minister when there is a vice president who should take over the presidential jobs when the head of state is not in the country.
The First Lady Getrude Mutharika has also remained behind.
The development comes after Mutharika on Friday directed that the Department of Disaster Management Affairs and National Public Events, previously under the office of Vice-President Saulos Chilima, to be under the Office of President and Cabinet.
This is the second time Mutharika has stripped Chilima of a portfolio. Last year, he transferred the Public Sector Reforms Programme (PSRP) from Chilima's office to OPC at a time many people thought the reforms were working better under the Vice-President's watch.
In a statement communicating the transfer of Dodma to OPC, Chief Secretary to Government Lloyd Muhara also said Mutharika has exercised his constitutional powers.
Chilima has publicly expressed dismay over growing levels of corruption in government, deteriorating standards of living among Malawians and hooliganism orchestrated by the ruling DPP youth cadets.
The vice president who dumped the DPP has also hinted at challenging Mutharika in next year's Tripartite Elections.
Chilima is set to launch a United Transformation Movement (UTM) in Lilongwe on Saturday.