Saulos Chilima’s UTM is sailing through troubled waters as top membership of the party wants him replaced ahead of seemingly upcoming rigorous court battles due to his entanglement with businessman Zuneth Sattar.
Weeks ago, court affidavits in a United Kingdom court revealed that Chilima is among top government officials that benefited from corrupt proceeds in form of kickbacks from Sattar. Here home, the Anti Corruption Bureau has been following Sattar’s issue with interest as he is also part of a separate investigation.
Following the UK revelations, President Lazarus Chakwera asked Anti Corruption Bureau to finalize their investigations within 21 days from May 31 after which he will make decisions as guided by law.
These developments have sent the UTM rank and file into panic mode as this is likely to shake their party to the ground. The party, formed in 2018, has largely survived due to Chilima’s social and financial capital. On top of being its major financier, he is also the most charismatic figure who keeps the support base intact.
Over the past two weeks UTM top brass has been holding meetings in Lilongwe to map the way forward.
“We are failing to reach consensus on what our President should do when ACB moves in on him. There is a group of senior members that think SKC should pave way for Michael Usi for now up until he is cleared from all this mess. However, another group says he must remain as party leader because it is only him who can keep the membership intact,” one Zomba-based senior member confided in this publication on condition of anonymity.
The fear among the anti-Usi takeover has infiltrated the lower ranks of the party with supporters agreeing to the fact that UTM is no existent without Chilima.
Though the national executive committee meetings are aimed at finding a solution to alternative leadership while SKC faces court battles, it is becoming clearer that no one is willing to replace him in the interim.
Usi himself is said to be growing cold feet as he doesn’t have the financial muscle to sustain daily expenditure for operations.
While they continue to debate back and forth, inside reports from ACB show that Chilima’s name is embroiled in the Sattar saga even deeper than what was presented in the UK court.
“From what we have gathered he won’t survive for too long. He got too deep into dealings with Sattar that he can’t pull himself out clean. It’s just a matter of time,” said one ACB insider.
Chilima’s impact on UTM is such that while he amassed 1.1 million votes as Presidential candidate in 2019, his party only managed a meagre four Parliamentary seats despite fielding candidates in all the 193 constituencies.
Social and political observers have questioned UTM strength before saying a personalized party is not good for democracy as its sustainability always hangs in the balance. There is no better time that these words are finally making more sense than before.