The political future of Vice President Saulos Chilima is hanging by thread. Already, Chilima is already answering six counts of corruption in a court case where he is accused of allegedly soliciting bribes from infamous businessman Zuneth Sattar.
Assuming that the Vice President eventually gets away with this corruption case, there will still be another hurdle for him to deal with; he will need to be certain if the law allows him to contest for the presidency in the2025 polls.
The debate over his eligibility has been in the public domain since Chilima started serving his second term as the country’s State Vice President.The debate starts and dies down before it resurfaces again and again.Yesterday, was another day when the issue resurfaced and it has dominated conversations since.
This time, it’s Dr Boniface Dulani, a renowned academic and director of Institute for Public Opinion and Research (IPOR).
Presenting a paper on Tuesday titled ‘From Athens to Zimbabwe: The evolution of Presidential limits in historical perspective’, Dulani said, while he does not have problems with presidential term limits, he thinks that the limitation should not be extended to the Vice Presidents.
While his perspective was looking at global trends, he was of the view that it is restricting those who have served as Vice President to harbour presidential ambitions.
Dulani confirmed that the current Malawian laws bar Chilima who has already served two consecutive terms from vying for the presidency.
Although perspective is not individual specific, it casts doubts of Chilima’s eligibility even more.
Dulani is not the first person to put Chilima’s eligibility into question. In 2020, the Malawi Law Society weighed in on the issue by stating that the constitution bars Chilima from contesting in future elections let alone in 2025 elections because by that time he would have served two consecutive terms.
Citing the Constitution Court’s ruling on the former Bakili Muluzi’s application after the Malawi Electoral Commision barred him from contesting in the 2009 Presidential elections, MLS through its honorary Secretary at the time, Martha Kaukonde said the law does not allow the Vice President from vying for office.
She said”: This judgement [presided by Justices Edward Twea,Healy Potani and Micheal Mtambo] is dated May 16, 2009 and cannot be appealed from now by the parties, let alone [Vice President] Dr Saulos Chilima who was not party to the case. So the option of appealing is out of question and MLS wouldn’t recommend constitutional amendments to suit a particular individual.”
Chilima is yet to declare his intentions on the 2025 bid. Granted that he intends to contest, chances are that he will not be allowed for the cited reasons.