Leaders Malawi 

Should Malawi scrap out the post of Vice President from the Constitution?

By Janet Ka

Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. — Psalm 3:1

On Monday June 10, 2024 the nation plunged into a deep shock, anguish and state of deep shock and sadness when they learned of the Malawi Defense Force plane crash that claimed the lives of Malawi’s Vice President Right Honorable Dr. Saulos Chilima. In the plane were seven other passengers that included the former First Lady Shanil Dzimbili. As Malawians are waxing lyrical and unearthing all manner of expressions of anguish, sorrow, and pain, so much pain in words, I looked at the table of Malawi’s vice presidents. It is shocking that of the nine vice presidential slots, two of them alone exited in good standing with their president, while one was kicked off his seat (after he gained leadership of party president), one resigned (irreconcilable differences), another was imprisoned, three lived through their respective terms while they were not on speaking terms with their president. Alas, one has died under inexplicable circumstances.

Seriously, Malawi lived through for 30 years without a vice president; the country only had a president, the Ngwazi, the Life President, the Mpulumutsi. For 30 years. Then democracy was introduced to the populace and we have been twirling around the notion of accepting the thing called “the Vice President.” After 31 years of one driver steering the Malawi vehicle, the people have battled with placing a vice president in his or her right place. Sadly, this hardship is even in the office of the president. But when Malawi wove in this position, it created a two-headed phenomenon called the Presidency, woven in the Constitution. Hence, all the wrangling that has taken place is unconstitutional. This begs the question that “if we cannot stomach or live with the national symbol called vice president, should we scrap it from our Constitution?”

A walk through the seven men and one woman Vice Presidents shows we have not made room for them; it has been disheartening that the majority have lived a tenure where they have been disparaged by ordinary people, political party officials. In another universe, this could be a form of treason. But even the presidentnd has snubbed his VP. Here is the list and how Malawi VPs have been treated.

1.                  Gwanda Chakuamba (1993-1994) – After spending time in jail for being found with a pen pistol, Chakuamba ditched the newly formed UDF and joined his jailors, the MCP. He joined the MCP as vice president to President Kamuzu Banda. But when Banda died, Chakuamba was bumped off his seat and John Tembo became the leader of the MCP.

2.                  Justin Malewezi (1994-2004) – After a long career as a civil servant rising to Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Malewezi joined the UDF and pulled in central region clout and UDF swept the presidency in 1994, But he was a grand administrator, thinker, and man who knew governing from administrative. He soon won scorn from his fellow colleague; but despite calls for him to resign, he never resigned. He showed up at his office, but no assignments as VEEP.

3.                  and (2nd VP) Chakufwa Chihana (1994-1996; 2003-2004) – In order to grow its numbers in the Parliament, Muluzi wooed Chakufwa Chihana to form a coalition government. To accomplish this, the Muluzi administration used the increased numbers to change the Constitution to introduce the post of Second Vice President. Chihana resigned twice due to irreconcilable differences. The post has never been occupied by any president again. The position exists comfortably in the Constitution, and maybe used should the president wish to appoint a 2nd VP.

4.                  Cassim Chilumpha (2004-2009) – Cassim Chilumpha was, according to insiders, forced on Bingu wa Mutharika. Within a very short time, Chilumpha was found to be in the cross hairs of the president, accused of wanting to kill the president, thrown in jail. He was later released but no longer VP.

5.                  Joyce Banda (2009-2014) – in 2009 Joyce Banda became the first woman to be elevated to the high post of the VP candidate, something that wooed the Malawi women’s vote. The Bingu-Banda ticket won the presidency by a landslide. But Banda soon lost President Mutharika’s regard; she was side-stepped for many assignments, with Bingu using his brother who was Justice and later Foreign Affairs minister. By the time of his death, the differences between Mutharika and the vice president (the first woman to reach that level) had not sorted their differences. This led the party to prevent the VEEP from ascending to the post of President. The MDF had to step in to uphold the Constitution.

6.                  Khumbo Kachali (2012-2014) – He became the first VEEP to go to the State House with the President and leave it, still with the President.

7.                  Saulos Chilima (2014-2019) – Brilliant mind Saulos Chilima did not only bring his technological skills to the Mutharika administration, but he also brought in truck loads (as Joyce Banda did with the women vote) of the youth voters. But he fell out of favor when the Mhlakho members pushed for a VEEP from their districts/southern region. Like Malewezi and Joyce Banda before him, he not only did and would not resign, he formed his own party while in the office of the Vice President. But unlike JB, he is the first VEEP to contest against his president while in the office of the Vice President. Although he lost, he led the challenge against the irregularities of 2019. He was joined by the MCP president in the court battle; after the case was won, he agreed to form the Tonse Alliance in the capacity of VP.

8.                  Everon Chimulirenji (2019-2020) – Although he was the shortest reigning VEEP, he like Kachali went in and out of the State House along with the president. He was removed from office like his president by a court decision.

9.                  Saulos Chilima (2020-2024) – A back to the drawing board, led Chakwera and Chilima to join forces, again campaigning as VEEP. After the win, it did not take long for MCP party officials to start talking about replacing Chilima with a member of their own party. But the most shocking thing was that they openly talked about “Chakwera will be the 2025 candidate and no one else.” Despite VP Chilima quietly performing his tasks, he lost ministerial posts; he was accused of corruption in a trial that divided the country; he even spent time behind bars. The case was recently dropped by the state making Chilima free to run for the presidency in the 2025 elections. And now VP Chilima has died, suddenly, and tragectly.

10.              VACANT (June 10, 2024) – The death of Vice President Saulos Chilima, brings onto the Malawi political platform, the country’s 9th vice president (with Chilima twice elevating to the VP seat).

In the 8th Chapter, section 79 of the Republican Constitution states that: There shall be a First Vice-President and, subject to section 80 (5), a Second Vice-President both of whom shall assist the President and who shall exercise the powers and perform the functions conferred on the First Vice-President or the Second Vice-President, as the case may be, by this Constitution or by any Act of Parliament and by the President.

On the tenure of the VP, Section 81:4 of the Constitution states that the VP will hold his office until his or her successor is sworn in. Currently the situation is that the President will have to appoint a VP, who will be sworn in on Monday June 17, 2024, upon the burial of the late Rt Honorable Vice President Saulos Chilima.Malawians must be widely and extensively sensitized to accept the existence of a vice president, give him or her the due respect from top to bottom, or else scrap it out of the Constitution.


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