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PERMUTATIONS ON THE NEXT MALAWI VICE PRESIDENT: POSITION PAPER

By Innocencia Chikuse

Good Days: President Chakwera and his Vice Chilima

Mr. President,

If I had a private channel to communicate this message to you, I would have preferred to use it. First and foremost, my deepest condolences for the loss of our beloved Vice President Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima and the nine other Malawians in the tragic aircraft accident (May their souls rest in eternal peace).

We mourn with you. The entire nation is in profound grief, sharing your shock and devastation, which is evident from your appearances on television.

I understand that despite the confusion surrounding this tragedy, the Constitution of Malawi under Section 84(2) mandates you to appoint a new Vice President within seven days.

This is yet a critical decision you must make amidst this confusion, and I have no doubt in your ability to appoint a Vice President wisely.

Taking cues from analogous situations, such as in South Africa, where the ANC is compelled to form a coalition government after electoral setbacks, thoughtful analyses in the form of position papers have been formulated by think tanks and intellectuals to propose and substantiate different models.

Similarly, I present my position paper for the replacement of our beloved late Vice President just to stimulate your mind in this dark moment.  

While I acknowledge your complete authority to appoint the next Vice President of the Republic of Malawi from your party, UTM, or any other qualified candidate without legal objection, I strongly argue, as detailed in this position paper, that maintaining the spirit of the Tonse Alliance, preserving national unity, and preventing political instability necessitates that the successor to the late Vice President should still be selected from within UTM. I have identified three potential candidates and will conclude with my preferred choice.

1. Dr. Michael Usi

Dr. Michael Usi, Vice President of the UTM, is a plausible candidate who is most likely going to assume the role of acting president of the UTM following the unfortunate demise of the late Vice President and UTM President. Currently serving as a minister in your administration, he is regarded as thoughtful, loyal to you, and well-educated. However, his actual performance in government falls short of his self-portrayal as a sophisticated and transformative leader.

He is, in fact, quite average when compared to distinguished figures like the late Goodall Gondwe. Furthermore, he lacks significant political influence in the Southern Region, which the DPP is expected to dominate in the next election.

2. Patricia Kaliati

She is the Secretary General of the UTM. Patricia Kaliati brings extensive governmental experience having served in various ministerial posts in the last decade. She may appeal to some women voters due to her gender in the next election as she is an active campaigner. However, her loyalty is questionable, as she often behaves unpredictably. She is a loose cannon. 

Additionally, she is from the Southern Region, where she may not provide a strategic advantage in the next election, given the likely dominance of the DPP. This consideration is crucial if the Tonse Alliance is to continue, which I strongly recommend it should, given the circumstances.

3. Mary Chilima

Madam Mary Chilima, the widow of our late Vice President, stands as a compelling candidate for the Vice Presidency of the Republic of Malawi. Like your daughter, who was appointed as a diplomat for her participation in your election bid, Madam Mary Chilima equally actively participated in past campaigns.

She is highly educated, and as a woman, her appointment could resonate with women in the country. She is not that ambitious hence a safe choice. Additionally, the Chilima brand remains influential as evidenced by how sad the entire nation is with his demise, and her appointment could elicit a sympathy vote similar to the support Peter Mutharika received following his brother’s passing.

Madam Mary Chilima hails from the northern region, which, combined with your support in the central region, could fortify your electoral prospects. Remember the northern region showed strong support for your candidacy during the 2020 election. Moreover, appointing her would honor the memory of the late Vice President and counteract the conspiracy theories that have begun circulating, given your party’s checkered history.

These theories are likely to intensify, making it challenging for you to mitigate their damage alone. Her appointment could serve as a potential remedy and bring about several national advantages.

4. Other Potential Candidates

There may be other qualified individuals within the UTM, whether serving in embassies or within your cabinet, who merit consideration but are unknown to me. Conducting a thorough scrutiny and analysis by your team could greatly assist you in making an informed decision.

Considering a Vice President From Your Party?

In my view, this approach has potential to boomerang politically. In light of this tragedy, the political landscape has fundamentally shifted, and such a decision could jeopardize your re-election bid.

In the interest of national unity and the spirit of the Tonse Alliance, appointing a Vice President from your own party would be perceived as self-serving and could lead to political instability. This instability might possibly and ultimately result in your removal from office next year.

Conclusion

Mr. President, if given the opportunity to choose, I would strongly recommend Madam Mary Chilima as the next Vice President of the Republic of Malawi. Her appointment has the potential to accelerate the healing process following the loss of our beloved Vice President, while also serving as a fitting tribute to his memory.

Additionally, her candidacy could garner significant support from women nationwide, and her roots in the northern region could bolster your re-election prospects in this era where securing over 50% of the vote is crucial.

In the event that Madam Mary Chilima declines the appointment, Dr. Michael Usi would be the next viable option, with her endorsement.

However, appointing a Vice President from your own party would be politically unwise given the current circumstances. 

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this position paper are that of the author, Innocencia Chikuse, and are not in any way representing the views of this publication. For feedback: Email: innocenciachikuse@gmail.com

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