Signs of a growing chasm between Malawi President Joyce Banda and her embattled Vice-President Khumbo Kachali emerged on Sunday at the memorial service of Inkosi ya Makhosi M’mbelwa IV.
The President, who was publicly meeting Kachali for the first time since sidelining him for the position of the running mate sat to the left of former Chief Justice Richard Banda, where previously Kachali would sit. On this day, the former chief justice was seated in between the two.
Deputy chief of protocol George Ntilatila could not pick his phone to explain the change, but analysts say the move was expected after the President dumped Kachali for Minister of Trade and Industry Sosten Gwengwe as running mate for her People’s Party (PP) candidature.
A political commentator, Henry Chingaipe, said the seating plan showed that the President and her deputy have not yet resolved differences which emanated from her dumping Kachali.
“That [seating plan] shows that there is mistrust between them. They found themselves together because Edingeni was Kachali’s home while the President had to fulfil her obligations as required in the Chiefs’ Act,” said Chingaipe.
He said Kachali is still the country’s Vice-President; hence, the President could not avoid him.
Chingaipe predicted the trend of the President sidelining the deputy will continue. He called for a lasting solution.
“We cannot continue to live like that. The country must force a workable relationship through legislation,” he said.
Happy Kayuni, another political analyst from Chancellor College, said it was clear that Banda’s choice of the running mate orchestrated the seating plan.
“The President says it was a two-year contract, but she could have still picked him as her running mate. This clearly shows that they might not have been in good books, otherwise a sitting Vice-President is normally a favoured running mate,” said Kayuni.
Kachali described his sidelining as a vote of no confidence but the President said Kachali was only picked to finish former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika’s term.
Kachali did not turn up at the press conference when President Banda unveiled Gwengwe and also the following day when she presented her nomination papers to the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) at Comesa Hall in Blantyre.
Kachali told Weekend Nation that he was at his farm in Mzimba inspecting his tobacco and cows.