In this interview, Paida Mpaso, seeks views of Chancellor College political scientist Dr Henry Chingaipe on Malawi Vice-President Khumbo Kachaliâ€™s recent conduct.
Recently, Vice-President Khumbo Kachali has done things which some people have described as blunders. For instance, he is said to have ordered the transfer of hospital beds from Dowa to Mzimba for political reasons. He also annoyed people when he said the Presidentâ€™s [and his] trips are justifiable because they do not visit peopleâ€™s mothers. What impact does this have on his political career?
I share the view that in recent weeks, the Vice-President has been in the limelight for what are politically wrong reasons. In both cases you have cited in the question, my view is that the critical element is the display of sheer lack of integrity and suggestions that the Vice-President is prone to narrow interests and the politics of particularism.
All these should not be attributes of anyone who wants to mantain or ascend to a high political office in the land. These so-called blunders have a huge potential to affect negatively his political career, especially at State level. There is, however, a chance that he may succeed at constituency level depending on how well his patronage system works at that level, but for now his future outlook for political office in the presidency is rather bleak.
Given that he only has a year and some months to convince people to elect him either as Vice-President or MP during 2014 elections, would you say people will have forgiven him by that time?
It is difficult to say with certainty whether voters will have forgiven him by 2014. This will depend in part on what the Vice-President will do between now and the election period. If the comedy of errors continues, we can expect that voters will show him the exit door.
Furthermore, the position of running mate in the Peopleâ€™s Party (PP) is still open. My view is that the recent blunders have affected negatively his chances of becoming running mate. However, one cannot predict the logic and flow of party politics in this country very well.
So, depending on internal party dynamics, he may as well become running mate. If that should happen, the PP electoral ticket may be a risky affair for the party as the Vice-President has given signs of being a political liability. Additionally, political culture is changing among Malawians. There is an increasing demand for personal and institutional integrity in politics. This may influence a good proportion of politically active citizens to write off the Vice-President from future political office, especially at national level.
Some sectors have called upon Kachali to resign as Minister of Health. Do you think this is justified?
The calls for resignation are meant to show the extent of public displeasure and disgust with the Vice-President, especially that the so-called blunders trailed each other. However, we all know that Malawian politicians hardly resign their positions even in the face of undisputable unpopularity or incompetence. The main reason for this is that our politicians are not accustomed to practices of public integrity.
Is it justifiable for a minister to use government property for campaign?
It is obviously not justifiable. The electoral laws prohibit use of any State resources, by anyone, for campaign purposes. However, politicians who are in government do it all the time, sometimes with impunity. A huge gap with respect to this issue is that we lack, in our political system, enforceable rules on campaign finance and party finance generally.
What is your advice to politicians?
Politicians must read the signs of our times…political culture is changing fairly quickly among Malawians and so too is voter behaviour. Politicians who show aloofness do not have much time before they exit the political stage.