Opinion: Chakwera will regret if he appoints Veep outside UTM Party

Time is running out for President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera to appoint a new State Vice President for Malawi, following the tragic demise of the workaholic Saulos Klaus Chilima in a fatal plane crash.

Chakwera consoles Kaliati

The Republican Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, is silent on which circles a sitting President can pick a new Vice President from, if a vacancy occurs in that office, through death or incapacitation, among other grounds.

Therefore, in the present circumstances, Chakwera has the prerogative and can appoint any Malawian irrespective of gender, tribe, region and religion. He may appoint anyone, even from Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), UTM party, United Democratic Front (UDF), Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) and Malawi Congress Party (MCP), among many other political parties.

While I advance several insights and options, it is my considered view that President Chakwera will appoint someone from UTM party—a second major partner in the governing Tonse Alliance—from which the fallen Chilima came and was actually its President.

Before I proceed, here is what the law says about the appointment of a new State Vice President in Malawi, according to a statement issued on 13 June, 2024 by Malawi Law Society President, Patrick Gray Mpaka.

The statement reads in part: “Following the tragic death of the Right Honourable Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima while serving in office as Vice President and considering that the deceased and the incumbent President took oath of office on 28th June 2020 in terms of section 83 of the Constitution, the Malawi Law Society advises the general public that under section 84 and 88 of the Constitution as read with section 45 of the General Interpretation Act, His Excellency President Lazarus Chakwera is required to appoint a replacement Vice President within 7 days after the death of the Vice President and in computing the 7 day period from the date of death to exclude any Sunday or Public Holiday.

“As such, it is expected that by and not later than 19th June 2024, President Lazarus Chakwera should have appointed a person to replace the late Right Honourable Dr Saulos Klaus Chilima in the constitutional office of a Vice President”.

I hope the President will act as prescribed by the law or he may choose to abdicate the law and suffer the consequences later, if any.

Now, why appoint someone from the UTM party?

Only two main reasons.

(1)   It will pacify the members and officials of UTM, who, like many other Malawians, are in deep pain, mourning and anxious, following the death of their leader, who held much of their stake and hope in the Tonse Alliance regime.

(2)   The alliance partners, with the main shareholder MCP, still need each other at this time, especially when the need for unity seems paramount amidst hurt, confusion, agitation and several unanswered questions over the plane crash, which resulted in the death of Chilima and eight other people.

Or the President may choose to be too political, factoring in appeasement and personal gratification, especially now that Malawi is headed for elections in September, 2025.

So, for example, he may appoint someone from MCP to please the party’s officials and supporters or voters, especially from Central Region. Well, it is his choice.

He may choose someone from the Northern Region in order to appease people or voters there. Well, it is his choice.

Eastern and Southern Regions. DPP, UDF, AFORD. Anyone, anywhere in Malawi, he can appoint. It his choice. His prerogative in the current circumstances.

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