Mutharika wants to appoint 2nd VP

By Lusubilo Sichali, Nyasa Times 

A meeting of senior politburo members of the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of president Bingu wa Mutharika agreed that the president’s younger brother, Professor Peter Mutharika, be appointed  state second vice president and that the infamous section 46 of the penal code which empowers the minister responsible to ban any publication be repealed at the next sitting of parliament.

The meeting, which was chaired by President Mutharika and held on Sunday at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre, agreed that the position of second vice president be re-introduced, with the holder enjoying equal privileges and other conditions as the incumbent state vice president, Joyce Banda.

“It was like a mini-cabinet meeting which comprised the president’s brother, Peter, justice and constitutional affairs minister Dr. George Chaponda, director of state residences Edward Sawerengera, Blantyre City Assembly chief executive Ted Nandolo, Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) commissioner general Lloyd Muhara, DPP newly appointed campaign director Ken Zikhale Ng’oma, and DPP newly appointed secretary general Wakuda Kamanga, among other influential members,” said the source who could not be named.

Fall out: President Mutharika and Vice President Joyce Banda

It was agreed Professor Mutharika would be appointed to that position following the DPP’s recent endorsement of his candidature as the party’s torch-bearer in the 2014 presidential elections and as a way of further alienating VP Banda.

The only holder of the second vice president position was the late Chakufwa Chihana, the then leader of the Alliance for Democracy (Aford). The republican constitution was amended during the second term of the former Head of State Bakili Muluzi to create the position of second vice president and Chihana was appointed on the premise of enhancing national unity.

According to a source close to the Sunday meeting, it was also resolved that government bows down to pressure by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to devalue the Malawi kwacha against the US dollar. The decision has already been implemented with the kwacha being devalued by 10%, which has resulted in the kwacha trading at around K165 to US$1 from K150 in an effort to salvage the country’s ailing economy.

“The president told the members to freely discuss matters affecting his government and the party, specifically singling out the need to contain the state vice president Joyce Banda in the wake of the recent official registration of her People’s Party (PP) and her recent famous rebuke of Mutharika’s government over constitutional breaches,” the source said.

Banda was in December 2010 expelled from the DPP after she refused to endorse Professor Mutharika as DPP presidential candidate. She formed the People’s Party this year and she recently told a local radio station that she was a politician and had to form the party as her political base.

At the meeting, a well –placed source said President Mutharika encouraged the members to expeditiously explore ways of dealing with Banda and her PP, suggesting “she had become a political menace.”

He also assured the members he would be consulting various unnamed experts within Malawi and abroad on how best he can deal with the first woman vice president in Malawi.

But speaking in a telephone interview with Nyasa Times from Mzuzu on Tuesday, information minister Symon Vuwa Kaunda expressed ignorance of the meeting, arguing people should not pursue assumptions against the reality.

“I am not refuting this just because I am a government spokesperson; I’m genuinely putting it to you that there was no such a meeting in Blantyre and that should there have been one, I should have known,” said Kaunda, insisting that the president was on Sunday “meeting Blantyre DPP youth cadets; on Monday, he was attending a Commonwealth Parliamentary Union meeting in Lilongwe; and today he is here with conducting whistle-stop tours in Mzuzu city”.

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