Malawi government protocol on Tuesday ensured Vice-President Saulos Chilima was properly recognised on protocol list to see off President Lazarus Chakwera to Zambia and was seen dismissing the military parade at Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) as proper second-in-command unlike in the past when he was estranged.
While serving as veep during the former president Peter Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) led government, Chilima was estranged when he expressed intent to challenge Mutharika in the presidential race in the 2019 Tripartite Elections.
During Mutharika’s time, Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) was sidelining Chilima on government protocol lists despite being a Constitutional Office as the veep.
But on Tuesday, the Vice-President who self-drove to and from the airport, a departure from the norm where vice-presidents are usually chauffeur-driven, was addressed first followed on protocol list by other heads of government agencies, including the Speaker, Chief Justice followed by Cabinet ministers and other government officials.
“Apparently it shows that Chakwera seems to be determined to honour his campaign pledge of ensuring that the Vice President is not being estranged anymore but accord the office the respect and support it deserves,” commented governance expert Makhumbo Munthali to Nyasa Times.
He said President Chakwera wants to prove his critics wrong including his predecessors that “it is possible for the President and his Vice to work together irrespective of their diversity.”
Said Munthali: “At the same time, you are seeing a Vice President who seems determined to support the President to deliver the campaign promises.”
Chakwera partnered with Chilima for presidency in the fresh presidential polls and supported by other seven political parties, they dislodged DPP candidate Mutharika, making him a one-term president.
Section 79 of the Constitution says a Vice-President is elected alongside the President and “shall assist the President and who shall exercise the powers and functions conferred on the First Vice-President…by this Constitution or by any Act of Parliament and by the President.”
Historically, there has been tension between Malawian Presidents and their Vice-Presidents predominantly over issues bordering on succession.
The Zambia day-return trip was Chakwera’s first foreign visit since assuming office 86 days ago.
At the airport, the old tradition was observed where the President was seen off and welcomed by political party supporters, most of whom defied Covid-19 guidelines such as social distancing and wearing of masks. Chiefs and several ministers were there, too, business as usual.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :