United Democratic Front (UDF) presumptive presidential candidate Atupele Muluzi yesterday picked 65-year-old agriculturalist Dr Godfrey Chapola as his running mate, blending youth with the wisdom that presumably comes with age and experience.
Despite being a political unknown, Chapola was announced as Atupele’s running mate for the May 20 Tripartite Elections at a press briefing held in Lilongwe yesterday.
While the choice of a number two who comes from the Central Region could be a strategy to pick some votes under the nose of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) since Chapola comes from Lilongwe, the move could help favourably project Atupele as serious about governing effectively.
But given that Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, the presumptive nominee of MCP—traditionally strong in the Centre—also comes from Lilongwe, it remains unclear how such a face-off would pan out.
Chapola’s lack of name recognition outside elites of the tobacco and agri-business industries may also be a minus.
Atupele said the choice of Chapola was made after rigorous consultations within the party using several criteria, among them commitment and visionary.
However, membership in the party was not one of the criteria as Chapola has no known history as a UDF cadre, which the UDF leader brushed aside as inconsequential.
“There was a shortlist of people which the National Executive Committee [NEC] considered and developed a consensus. This was a collective decision by the [NEC],” Atupele said.
He said in Chapola, UDF has found an individual who would help in running government; harnessing the collective good of the nation and who is committed to public service.
Commenting on the choice of Chapola as a son of T/A Kalumbu, Lilongwe, Muluzi said the party was looking to build a team that would deliver to Malawians irrespective of regions.
Chapola’s age, 65 to Muluzi’s 35, is a “fusion of the young and the wise” according to Atupele.
He believes it will be an exciting combination in the run-up to the election.
“The older generation brings in a lot of wisdom and experience while the younger generation understands the future,” Atupele said of his running mate.
Chapola is the general manager of Rumark, an agricultural organisation working to expand agro dealership in Malawi.
The married father of four holds a PhD obtained from Florida, United States.
He has previously served as general manager of Tobacco Control Commission (TCC), deputy director of Aret and general manager of Tobacco Research Institute of Malawi before that.