JB ponders on choice of running mate: Malawi VP Khumbo in the cold

With only less than 10 months before Malawians go to the polls, battlelines are now being drawn in the ruling People’s Party (PP) with latest information reaching Nyasa Times indicating that President Joyce Banda is shuffling her cards on who to pick as  her running mate, leaving current Vice President Khumbo Kachali in the cold.

Insiders say the President is determined to make a careful consideration in picking her running mate after some of her advisers  spoke against Kachali because of the various scandals the Veep has been involved in since being appointed to the position last year.

President Banda, who is a candidate for PP in the presidential race, would have to select a running mate who in turn would be her vice president beyond 2014.

According to our sources in PP, among other options open to the President are Minister of Lands Henry Phoya,  PP Vice President for the Centre Cassim Chilumpha as well as PP Vice President for the South and Minister of Transport Sidik Mia.

President Joyce Banda and Vice President Khumbo Kachali: Not dream ticket
President Joyce Banda and Vice President Khumbo Kachali: Not dream ticket

Other names in the mix include Salima south MP Uladi Mussa and Dedza MP Sosten Gwengwe.

“She could not run with Chilumpha as that man cannot be trusted considering what happened with Bingu and his treason allegations,” said a source privy to the matter.

The source said President Banda will not be gambling by picking a running mate from the Southern Region where she also comes from as the issue of voting along regional lines was put to rest when the late Bingu Mutharika picked her as his running mate in 2009 general elections.

“The other advantage is that Phoya and Gwengwe are youthful and will appeal to the youth vote and compete against UDF’s Atupele Muluzi on youth votes,” said the source.

He said Khumbo Kachali will have to go along with the arrangement because it will be too late for him to form his own political party or stand as an independent candidate.

The source said President Banda is expected to make the announcement of her running mate ‘at an appropriate time’.

Questions over Kachali have arisen following a public outcry against his order to transfer beds from Mponela Rural Hospital in the Central Region to his Northern Region home of Mzimba during a campaign for two parliamentary by-elections some months ago.

Kachali also courted controversy when he told critics of President Banda’s numerous travels that the President does not go to their mother’s homes and there is no need for anyone to be complaining.

There were also fears of corrupt practices when he was serving as Minister of Health until President Banda took away that ministerial portfolio from him and cancelled all drug orders made during his tenure.

Asked when he was featured on Zodiak Broadcasting Services interview programme Tiuzeni Zoona on whether he thinks President Banda will pick him as her running mate, Kachali expressed the hope he will be but nonetheless said it was the President’s prerogative.

“The right to pick a running mate rests with the presidential candidate so it’s not up to me to say if I will be running mate or not,” said Kachali.

“All I know is that in 2014 PP is winning the elections hands-down,” said Kachali.

The Vice President also pointed out that he regrets the Mponela beds scandal.

“I accept it happened when I was a minister of Health,” he said. “It happened, lessons were learnt.”

Kachali’s decision to snatch beds in Mponela; leaving patients languishing on the floor, attracted protests from Mponela residents and several groups, including the Parliamentary Women Caucus.

Apart from Mponela Rural Hospital, with orders from Kachali, government also removed 12 beds from Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) and transferred them to Mzimba.

The beds were reportedly sent to Euthini Health Centre in Mzimba Central and the yet-to-be completed Edingeni Health Centre in Mzimba South West.

Kachali also made headlines for wrong reasons when he officially opened a multimillion telecentre at Lupaso in Karonga where he attacked critics of President Banda on frequent travels, saying: “As long as we are serving, we will never stop visiting you Malawians, anywhere where chiefs want us to go, we will be there.

“They say, ‘you are travelling excessively’; do we travel to your mothers’ homes? Aaah! The President is travelling too much. The President and her Vice are always together. Did you want them to be sitting in your mother and father’s homes? Do you want your mothers and fathers to be the ones travelling? Shame on you!”

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