Malawi beds saga: VP Kachali storms Mponela hospital as female MPs say ‘no retreat’

Malawi Government has defied a 24-hour ultimatum given by the infuriated Women Parliamentary Caucus to return 25 children patients’ beds allegedly snatched by the Minister of Health, Khumbo Kachali, from Mponela Rural Hospital in Dowa and Kachali on Thursday paid a surprise visit to the facility.

Kachali, who is also the country’s vice president, held discussions with hospital staff and visited the children’s ward where he is reported to have ordered his ministry’s officials to take the beds to Edingeni and Euthini rural hospitals as a campaign gimmick to woo support for the ruling People’s Party (PP) during the October 9, 2012 by-elections.

His spokesman Kondwani Munthali said the Vice President wanted “to establish what happened”.

Munthali said the VP is neither aware of nor involved in the transfer of the beds.

“As you might be aware, the Vice-President has been addressing campaign rallies in Mzimba since Sunday. He was not aware or involved on matters related to the movements of beds,” he said.

VP Kachali at children's ward.= Photo by a citizen journalist

Meanwhile, government’ refusal to return the beds has forced the Malawi women parliamentarians to petition the minister in an effort to have their demand honoured by the authorities.

“We have not yet received any official communication from the ministry of health as regards our demand but what we have heard and been told is that the ministry will not return the beds to the rural hospital,” Chairperson of the caucus Cecilia Chazama said Thursday.

“So as women caucus we met last evening and early this morning where we have made a resolution that we petition the Minister of Health in our effort to have the beds returned to the hospital,” she added.

“We are also calling on the ministry that once the beds are returned, it must facilitate transportation of the 21 beds which are just idle in the storage room at Mponela Rural Hospital to those particular areas where they took the other beds.”

The chairperson, who is leading a team of over 20 female parliamentarians on the crusade, said they will not retreat or surrender until the beds which were reportedly snatched just after midnight on September 16, 2012 are returned.

“Our stand remains intact. We want the beds returned to the hospital because that hospital also serves nine other rural health centers and it is a blow to the people around the health facility,” she said.

Responding to what her team will do should government continue defying them, the lady parliamentarian said without elaborating: “we are legislature and we know our role and we do believe that the ministry responsible including the minister himself will return the beds to the hospital.”

The snatched beds were reportedly donated to the hospital by Member of Parliament for the area, Dr Jean Kalirani, vice president of the former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) when she was minister of health herself.

Health rights activists and the public at large have condemned the vice president and the Peoples Party for their action.

The development comes barely a few days after the Malawi vice president was also in the limelight for his “rude” remarks he made recently on his government critics in Karonga District.

The VEEP was condemned left, right and center and ended up succumbing to the mounting public pressure from the citizenry to apologize.


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