Malawi VP Kachali gets contentious job: ‘Responsible for Electoral Commission’

Malawi Vice President Khumbo Kachali has been stripped off  the portfolio of  Health Minister in a mini-cabinet reshuffle announced on Thursday but has been given a controversial job of being responsible for the Electoral Commission.

In the full cabinet list named by President Joyce Banda and released by Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), Kachali is listed second-in-command as State Vice President and that “he is also responsible for National Relief and Disaster Management, National Public Events Office, Central Government Stores, Department of Printing Services and Electoral Commission.”

However the role of Electoral Commission  triggered debate in internet chat rooms and social media, with a lot of question marks.

One of the legal experts emailed to Nyasa Timesbut asked to have his name shielded, saying the Electoral Commission is supposed to be an independent body free from political interference.

Kachali:Responsible for Electoral Commission

“Putting a whole vice president there is going to be seen to be interfering with its independence,” he said.

University of Malawi researcher and lecturer of social history Professor Wiseman Chijere Chirwa also wondered: “What does being ‘responsible for Electoral Commission’ mean? Can the Electoral Commission be placed under a Minister or Ministry, let alone the Vice Presidency? I thought this is an independent Constitutional body? Or is my reading of the Malawi Constitution a wrong one?”

Chirwa  cited Section 76, paragraph (4) of the Constitution which reads: The Electoral Commission shall exercise its powers, functions and duties under this section independently of any direction or interference by other authority or any person.

“Am I reading the wrong version of the Constitution? Was this section and/or paragraph amended? What will the Vice President be responsible for at (or in) the Electoral Commission? Will it not undermine the independence of the Commission? Will it not amount to interference?,” wrote Chijere Chirwa.

But a sympathizer of government argued that the Electoral Commission chair, though independent, is appointed by the Head of State  and reports ultimately to the President and that now, instead of reporting straight to the President, the chair will report to the vice president.

Scandal-riddled

Meanwhile, observers noted that President Banda  stripped off her Vice-President the ministerial post of  Health Minister following his involvement in the snatching of hospital beds from one clinic to another, where he was campaigning for a member of his party to be elected as MP and also the recent reports of snatching a car from National Aids Commission.

In early September, Kachali ordered the removal of beds from one hospital to the other in his constituency, a development that astonished many across the country until they were eventually replaced.

The  Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) launched an investigation into the scandal and found that ruling People’s Party (PP) candidate Raymond Nkhata used the beds as a campaign tool in the Mzimba by-elections held on October 9.

There were also  allegations of corruption.

This is the first reshuffle by President Banda since taking over power in April this year following the demise of Mutharika.

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