Hit or miss? Tenthani’s Muckracking on Malawi presidential runningmate choice

“Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed’ – Mao Tse-Tung

Why is the vice presidency a poison chalice in Malawi? Check how all the vice presidents we have had since the dawn of multiparty politics have ended up. All spectacularly fell out with their bosses.

Look, Bakili Muluzi mocked Justin Malewezi with the ‘32 tablets-a-day’ jibe while Bingu wa Mutharika reduced Cassim Chilumpha to surviving on Fanta.

Joyce Banda’s failed ‘romance’ with Bingu, too, is well-catalogued. In fact a lorry was planted to ‘accidentalise’ her somewhere in Kanengo the other day.

Ama herself may try to coat in niceties her fall-out with Vice President Khumbo Kachali. But, if truth be told, passing the running mate mantle over him is a vote of no confidence.

President Bandagave Khumbo Kachali a "vote of no confidece"

President Bandagave Khumbo Kachali a “vote of no confidece”

I have criticised Khumbo for following his boss everywhere, even on some real mundane junkets like distributing a cow per family. But his conspicuous absence during the unveiling of Sosten Gwengwe as her choice of vice presidential running mate speaks a million words.

If the ‘divorce’ was mutual as Ama would like us to believe, Khumbo should have been the one welcoming Gwengwe at SanjikaPalace last Thursday. His unexplained no-show means he is not amused by the snubbing.

I am not a soothsayer or prophet of doom but I can see Khumbo not going down without a fight. He will adopt a nihilistic mode of ‘if I can’t get it, you won’t get it too’ and fight Ama in the North.

He already has ready and willing suicide bombers for that jihad. The Livingstonia Synod of the CCAP has not hidden its displeasure at the snubbing of Khumbo. Your guess is as good as mine on what the synod will do next.

Of course, if truth be told, Khumbo did not acquit himself well during his short time as Citizen No. 2. The Mponela bedgate affair and the careless pakhomo pa anyoko rants will remain asbestoses around his neck.

But, be that as it may, retaining Khumbo was a safe bet for Ama. It could have made political sense if she seriously wants to renew her tenancy on Plot Number 1.

Look, her People’s Party is still a rag tag motley crew of political refugees bound together by the fact that she controls affairs at Capital Hill. Save for the incumbency factor, PP was still struggling to find its real stronghold. That is why when she is in the Eastern Region Abiti raps in Yao to remind us she is a girl from Malosa.

While as whenever she crosses Jenda she plays mtengwa as she fumbles her lines in Tumbuka to legitimise her NkhataBay claims.

To be frank, the fickle politics the North plays could have advantaged Ama. While the Central and Southern regions vote in a straight-jacket manner, the Northern Region responds to emerging issues. ((Bingu’s 2009 national landslide was an exception). For instance, in 2004 the region massively voted for Gwanda Chakuamba’s émigréRepublic Party to punish the regional ‘god’ Chakufwa Chihana who had gone rogue.

This time around the region was Ama’s to lose until the Khumbo affair. A healthy percentage of the region’s one million-plus votes could have voted orange had Khumbo partnered with President Banda.

 

This is how I mean: it will take a generation for the region to forgive the UDF. The North believes Chakufwa Chihana should have emerged president in 1994 but Bakili Muluzi somehow played hanky-panky with the votes.

Besides, Muluzi snubbed Aleke Banda for the national No. 2 position despite being No. 2 in the party.

And, although the DPP has pockets of support here and there owing to the Karonga-Chitipa Road, Bingu’s Mzuzu Corner diatribe and the quota system of public university selection make the blue party Satan re-incarnate in the region.

The MCP, too, was not an alternative owing to how the region suffered during the party’s three decades in power.

So Ama was an acceptable choice for the North. But the dissing of Khumbo will make the region re-cast its net. Khumbo might have his own issues but sticking to him made political sense.

By throwing Khumbo under the bus, Ama has opened a new and unnecessary battle front. As my ‘loudmouthed’ colleague across the street Gracian Tukula puts it, not all fights are worth fighting.

Rev. Dr. Lazarus Chakwera must be smiling from ear to ear with these developments. Despite its chequered history in the region, with the new leadership the MCP just may be an alternative for the region. After all, Abusa’s wife hails from somewhere in the idyllic mountains of Rumphi.

Ama says she prayed and consulted widely over her choice of vice presidential running mate. Did her strategists not consider these obvious variables and fundamentals?

It beggars belief how she could settle for one Sosten Gwengwe who is still finding his ropes in the murky world of politics.

I must confess the young man impressed a lot as the MCP finance spokesman. But he dug his political grave by defecting from the MCP to the DPP. His onward migration to PP reduced him to become as ordinary as they come.

I am not sure how much votes he might bring to the ticket for, if truth be told, he is nowhere near a force to reckon with in the Central Region. He might even struggle to retain his Dedza seat with a re-born MCP breathing down his neck.

By the way, who is telling these candidates that since the youth constitutes the majority of the population they are a factor in these elections? Yes, the total population is projected at 15.8 million in 2014. Those aged between 18 and 40 comprise 68 percent of the population, according to 2008 population projections by the National Statistics Office. But this age-group is not as excited with voting as the older generation.

While I agree with her that the mantra ‘the youth are leaders of tomorrow’ is hackneyed, she has gambled big time on Gwengwe, that is my honest opinion.

  • This article is published in The Sunday Times newspaper under Muckracking column

    Raphael Tenthani: Muckracking columnist

    Raphael Tenthani: Muckracking columnist

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