Atupele picks technocrat Chapola runningmate

Atupele Muluzi, the United Democratic Front (UDF) torchbearer in the May 20 elections has picked former Tobacco Control Commission’s (TCC) general manager Dr Godfrey Chapola as his running mate , it has been confirmed

The 64-year-old UDF executive member, a devout Catholic from Lilongwe was presented to the party National Executive Committee (NEC) on Saturday in the capital and will be paraded at a rally on Sunday.

The UDF NEC meeting reportedly approved Atupele’s preferred choice of a technocrat to partner him in the race.

Chapola: UDF vice presidential runningmate

Chapola: UDF presidential runningmate

UDF party said the 35-year-old torch bearer picked Chapola -“compelling new voice” – to add more substance to his candidature.

The announcement from Atupele set the pace to break the silence which has been there on the issue of the running mates as political parties have only almost two weeks to present their nomination papers to the Malawi Electoral Commission.

Malawi’s youngest presidential candidate at 36, has settled for Chapola 65, in an apparent attempt to fuse in experience in his youthful demeanour, which his critics have been trying to exploit since he took over the leadership of the UDF.

Chapola is an agriculturist by profession and brings a wealthy of experience and intellect to the UDF team but many question whether he has what it takes politically.

He studied at the University of Malawi (BSc), University of Exeter (UK) (MSc) and University of Florida USA where he did his PhD.

Atupele  the first to announce his  runningmate  said Chapola has got the grit, the integrity and commitment to the common good to advance the ‘agenda for change’ which is focusing on economic change.

“We believe that he has qualities what a vice president have. He is a transformative leader,” he said.

“He is exactly what I need, who Malawi needs, to help me change the way we do our politics and serving the people.”

UDF spokesman Ken Ndanga said Chapola’s selection is yet another encouraging sign that old barriers are falling in our politics and that the agenda for change is on the right footing.

Chapola who was at loss of words said  at a news conference that he is geared to take forward the UDF’s ideologies.

“I always take as serious business any issue that A\has got to do with the people. I have taken note that looking at the situation in the country, Malawi needs UDF to continue developing the country. I am determined ,” he said  in a strong dialect Chewa tongue.

Obsevers said Chapola being a fresh face on the political  scene is obviously a potential plus.

Political Commentator, Dr. Augustine Magolowongo, said UDF has done its homework: “ it would appear the person they are putting forward he does fit what one can say meaningful alternative. It is a hit not a miss.”

“The UDF needed that kind of balance of Atupele’s youthful age and Chapola’s experience,” he said  on Zodiak radio.

“There is also an element of humility in the way received the news of his appointment.”

Chapola did his doctorate degree in Agriculture at Florida University in United States, Master’s Degree in agriculture at Exeter University UK and Bachelor of social science (biology) at University of Malawi.

He was also General Manager of the then Tobacco Research Institute of Malawi (predecessors to ARET), former General Manager of the Tobacco Control Commission and is now the Managing Director of an NGO Rural Agricultural Market Development Trust, RUMARK, where he has been since October, 2009.

Born Godfrey Moses Chapola, the man started his agricultural career working with the Malawi government from 1973 where he was mostly involved in agricultural research.

He joined the Tobacco Research Authority in 1988, before he became General Manager of the Tobacco Research Institute of Malawi (TRIM) in 1989 and then the Agricultural Research and External Trust (ARET) where he was the Deputy Director.

Dr. Chapola’s experience in agriculture is his major strength as he now seeks to become Malawi’s Vice President. Malawi remains an agro-based economy, as tobacco remains the major forex earner.

Despite his inexperience in politics, Dr. Chapola successfully organized and chaired his party’s Policy Conference which took place on 31 October, 2013.

His nomination has raised questions on whether the UDF has finally decided to go it alone in the election.

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