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A MISSED OPPORTUNITY: DR. USI’S APPOINTMENT AS VICE PRESIDENT

BY LYSON SIBANDE

The appointment of Dr. Usi as Vice President is a missed opportunity for President Chakwera and the Malawi Congress Party (MCP). The sudden and tragic death of the former Vice President was undeniably a painful crisis. But every crisis brings an opportunity.

The vacancy in the Office of the First Vice President gave President Chakwera an unexpected opportunity to realign his administration and the MCP for the 2025 elections.

When Chakwera took office in 2020, Malawians had high expectations and hope for positive change. However, within a year, those hopes were dashed. The administration has struggled to inspire confidence, with the cost of living skyrocketing due to economic mismanagement, and the country failing to make progress in various areas of the economy and governance.

The recent plane crash disaster has further damaged the administration’s public image, as many still doubt the MCP’s innocence over the accident. All this is happening with just 12 months remaining before the official campaign period for the 2025 Presidential Elections begins.

I have previously shared my views on how the Chakwera administration ought to have handled the situation to foster national healing and reconciliation while securing votes for 2025. Now, I want to explain why appointing Dr. Usi is not just a missed opportunity but also a strategic blunder.

Dr. Usi is undoubtedly an intelligent, accomplished administrator with impressive academic credentials and international connections. However, that is not the type of Vice President Chakwera needs at this critical juncture. What Chakwera needs now are not technocrats and administrators in the cabinet. Not at all.

The current cabinet has failed to deliver over the past four years and will not to do so in the next 12 months. Instead, Chakwera needs a political cabinet that can secure electoral victory. The focus now must be on winning the election.

Dr. Usi cannot help President Chakwera and the MCP win the election because he lacks a political base that can bring in votes. He failed to gather support in his home district of Mulanje when he founded his political movement, “Odya zake alibe mlandu.” He contested for a parliamentary seat in Mulanje in 2019 and lost. He has no political value for electoral gains.

Moreover, Dr. Usi does not have influence within the UTM to attract votes to the MCP. By appointing Dr. Usi, Chakwera has effectively lost the support of the entire UTM, as Usi has moved to the MCP alone. Chakwera did not have any legal obligation to appoint another Vice President from UTM. He did not have to sacrifice electoral interests and self-preservation over moral obligations and conscience. In politics the end justifies the means – maybe not ideal, but that’s the reality.

So, while Chakwera might still consider choosing a different running mate for the 2025 elections, he should have started strategizing immediately. The current political landscape is not favorable, and beginning preparations just 3 months before the elections, with a new running mate, will be too late.

Chakwera’s mistake mirrors that of former President Peter Mutharika (APM) during the 2020 Fresh Presidential Elections. Mutharika chose Atupule Muluzi as his running mate against the Tonse Alliance, which was composed of nine parties.

Though Atupele had the youthful appeal, eloquence and energy that APM lacked, he had lost his parliamentary seat in his home constituency and had only garnered about 250,000 votes nationwide as the UDF candidate in the 2019 elections. Atupele brought no political value to Mutharika and the DPP. That is why the percentage of votes remained unchanged for DPP between 2019 and 2020.

The alliance was ineffective because APM did not understand what he needed in order to win. He did not need an energetic, eloquent and youthful partner, he needed any partner who could bring the votes.

Similarly, President Chakwera has squandered an opportunity. Dr. Usi brings no electoral value to the MCP, making his appointment a strategic blunder at a critical time.

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