Commentators have reacted with mixed feelings on reports that President Peter Mutharika’s running mate Everton Chimulirenji can barely read and speak English fluently, a prerequisite of one to perform well especially in the high office of the Vice President.
Social commentator Stanley Onjezani Kenani writing on Facebook stated that of many criticism levelled against Chimulirenji, he disagrees with that he is incapable expressing himself grammatically correct in English.
Kenani, a writer of great repute, said he never minds that Chimulirenji’s sentence construction in English is worse than a Standard 2 pupil’s, that even a speech written for him he cannot read.
“I disagree with this criticism because English is not our language. Failure to speak or write it properly should never be a yardstick for leadership.
“We have our own languages, Chiwecha, Tumbuka, Yao, Lomwe, Tonga, Nkhonde etc. If he had problems speaking any of these, the concerns would have been legitimate. But Englissh? Hell no.”
Also commenting on the post, private practice lawyer Tamando Chokotho wrote: “Speaking English is not qualification for the vice-president. It is a qualification for MPs to speak and read well enough to follow and participate in the proceedings of Parliament.”
But one Winner Chawinga said Chimulirenji can enrol with a night school for English lessons, saying “it’s not too late for him.”
Further, Kenani shared a rejoinder from Thandie wa Pulimuheya who argues that Chimulirenji’s poor Englihs i s a problem becasue in his particular case it is indicative of the level of education he has acquired.
“You cannot rule out a basic education as a requirement for the VP role. An intelligent puppy remains an intelligent but useless puppy until it is trained. Chimulirenji isnt your typical case of ‘he doesnt know English but he is clever’ fella. He is worse. He is neither clever nor knowledgeable and hasn’t been appointed for any discernible skills in anything,” Thandie wrote.
She continued the former president “[Bakili] Muluzi spoke broken English but he wasnt daft on top of that.”
Added she: “You only need to listen to even Chimulilenji’s Chichewa speeches. He has no ambition to lead the country, just to serve Peter Mutharika in eternal gratitude. He doesnt need English for that!.”
Thandie pointed out that clever non English-speaking presidents exist all over the world but they have gone through an education fit for leadership in their own countries.
“That education is delivered in the educational language of those countries. Our education is delivered in English. Until our education is delivered in Chichewa, [then] English will always determine who is fit for leadership and who is not. Whether one agrees with this or not is a different debate.”
In Malawi the law states that a Vice-president takes over as the Head of State if the office of Presidentfalls vacant by resignation, incapacitation, impeachment or death.
The revelations about Chimulirenji communication inabilities started emerging in 2014 when an aspiring candidate in Ntcheu North East constituency Joseph Malingamoyo, challenged Chimulirenji’s victory after the 2014 elections.
According to affidavits filed in court for the case, Malingamoyo claimed that Chimulirenji did not qualify to be a parliamentarian ‘because he cannot take an active part in parliamentary proceedings due to his inability to speak and read English well enough’.
Malingamoyo also claimed in the case that Chimulirenji presented his brother’s certificate to deceive Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) and alleged that Chimulirenji also used the same certificate when he was elected as an MP in 2009.
He also said Chimulirenji failed to make any contribution in the National Assembly throughout his tenure from 2009 to 2014 because of language deficiencies.
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