14 February 2014

Malawi: Zuka - President's Choice of a New Running Mate 'A Big Gamble'


In a bid to benefit from regional voting patterns, Joyce Banda has opted to run in the upcoming elections with a young politician from central Malawi.

In Malawi, President Joyce Banda  is apparently trying to improve her chances of re-election by choosing a younger running mate, Sosten Gwengwe, over her vice president Khumbo Kachali. To find out more about her motives DW has been talking to analyst Sane Zuka, lecturer and analyst at the University of Malawi.

Mr Zuka, why do you think President Banda has decided to drop Khumbo Kachali as her running mate ahead of the elections due on 20 May, 2014?

There are two reasons. The first one is that Sosten Gwengwe is coming from the central region. Malawi has three regions, a northern region, a central region and a southern region. By population, there are more people in the southern region, second is the central region and there is a very low population in the north. So there are more voters in the central and southern regions. Picking northerner Khumbo Kachali would be a threat to her because the thinking is that the northern region will not add much so she needs someone from the center who can pick up a good share of votes from the center.

The second reason is that in the southern region there is Joyce Banda and then there is Peter Mutharika, brother to the late president, and these two are going to share the votes in the south.

Is this move likely to affect her chances of winning the election?

At the moment I think it is a big gamble because her hope is that Sosten Gwenge is going to bring in force from the center. But at the same time she is losing votes from the north because what people from the north want is symbolic inclusion and that symbolic inclusion is lost by leaving out Khumbo Kachali. At the moment Sosten Gwenge is not in a position to command a lot of votes from the central region. So it is a very big gamble.

So what are her chances of winning the election, given the Cashgate corruption scandal [in which an estimated 100 million euros was stolen by scores of public officials]?

At the moment her chances are slim, especially because she has failed to handle the people within her party, the People's Party. She has fallen out with Khumbo Kachali, then there was another minister who was important for bringing votes from the southern region. He resigned. So at the moment the chances of her retaining the presidency are very slim.

Sane Zuka is a lecturer at the University of Malawi.

Interview: Mark Caldwell

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