Honourable Folks, the one achievement of Zodiak’s public debate for running mates held last Saturday is to train the nation’s eye on a constitutional office whose importance has remained controversial since the advent of the multiparty political dispensation in 1994.
From the days of Bakili Muluzi, the pair that contests as presidential candidate and running mate has almost always ended up enemies bound together in a miserable relationship by a Constitution which denies the president the power to fire the vice-president.
In the reign of Bakili Muluzi, vice-president Justin Malewezi was humiliated and ostracised. When Muluzi later paired Bingu wa Mutharika with Cassim Chilumpha, there was so much acrimony between them that culminated in Chilumpha being accused of treason. Mutharika picked Joyce Banda as running mate for his second term, but hardly a year elapsed before a huge rift emerged culminating in the latter being dismissed from the party on whose ticket the pair ascended to power.
When death paved way for Joyce Banda to ascend to power, she appointed Khumbo Kachali as her Vice-President, but it appears she’s had enough of him within two years and now she’s contesting in the May 20 presidential race paired with Sosten Gwengwe, leaving Kachali out in the cold.
Yet, despite that the drama in the presidency has a price which the citizens have to pay, the vice-presidency remains an office of a president-in-waiting as is attested to by the events of April 2012.
Mutharika dropped dead on April , 2012 while JB had already been kicked out of the DPP and government albeit with pay. In fact, she had already formed her own People’s Party (PP) which associated with the opposition.
Yet, it is the same outsider—not anyone else in Cabinet or the executive of DPP—who had the blessing of the Constitution to succeed Mutharika. The hitherto mess only helped JB ditch Mutharika’s Cabinet, bringing on board her own team and appointing a comrade in grief—Kachali who was fired from DPP together with JB—as Vice-President.
There’s no denying that the manner the country is being run now is a reflection of two factors—the qualities of JB as a leader (what the voting in 2009 supposedly determined) plus the mess Mutharika created in the presidency by sidelining his own choice of a running mate.
As a consequence, we’re faced with a situation where JB is continuing with Mutharika’s tenure, but chooses to be neither responsible nor accountable for the costly blunders made by her predecessor. By bringing in a PP agenda by default, JB effectively abandoned the DPP manifesto which led the party to victory in 2009. The agenda being pursued now isn’t what the electorate voted for. What a raw deal!
And, had she herself been incapacitated, impeached or worse within the two years she’s been at the helm by default, it means Vice-President Kachali would’ve been the State president for our democracy, exercising all the executive powers—which some people believe are excessive—without having to first seek the mandate of the people through the ballot.
All the more reason the office of the vice-president is too important to ignore!
As long as it is in the Constitution, it is a duty to democracy for the citizens to send a clear signal to the presidency that we vote for the pair and would want to keep it that way until the next election unless death, incapacitation or impeachment necessitates changes.
Another very good case for showing great interest in the running mates is that the one who emerges as vice-president ought to have the attributes of a good leader, capable of adding value to the presidency and steering the ship either by delegation.
Hats off, therefore, to Zodiak for doing what MBC—which thrives on taxpayers’ money—is failing to do, thereby rendering itself more and more irrelevant by the day. Let’s hope for a lively debate of the presidential candidates themselves some day!