Outbursts by vice president Khumbo Kachali continue to draw fire
Malawi's vice president Khumbo Kachali has been roundly condemened for his vitriol-filed and angry reaction to calls for the president and vice president to ease up on domestic and international travel as one way of saving government money.
Since The Daily Times wrote the story on Friday, contributors to radio phone-in programmes, social media, internet discussion forums and various commentators have described Kachali's comments as 'arrogant', 'rude', 'regrettable', 'unbelievable', 'offensive', 'immature', 'denigrating to women' and have asked him to apologize.
Kachali made the remarks in the Tumbuka language in Karonga after opening a community telecentre. Political analyst Blessings Chinsinga said this was'stirring a hornet's nest' and Chancellor College lecturer Jessie Kabwila said "I am amazed at how quickly he is 'othering' the citizenry and removing those he perceives as critics from the nation state, the same thing that Bingu used to do."
Following the unveiling of the economic recovery programme last week, various players had suggested that one way to save money would be to cut on the president's and vice president's travel. But Kachali went to the extent of challenging Malawians with the words 'tendenge' (we will travel much more).
"Kufuma pano nthena mhanya uno namgona ku Lilongwe, asi nkhwenda pela? Ka nende pa ndalama za bawuso na banyoko? Pa sabata nkhujula kampeni ku [Mzimba] Southwest, pa Monday kujula kampeni ku Central, kweni pa chisulo nili ku Blantyre, zikukole za majungu!," Kachali said.
Contributing to an online discussion forum on this matter, Kabwila wrote that "unfortunately, we are taxpayers so yes, he does use our money when he travels and we have the right to ask.
When will our leaders understand that they are our servants and we have the voter's prerogative to quiz them on what they do? I was counting how many times he used the term 'mother' and I am at pains to believe he has any semblance of sensitivity to issues of women, let alone knowledge".
Chinsinga said Kachali's remarks were deeply regrettable considering the economic misery that many Malawians are encountering following the devaluation of the local currency by 49 per cent in June.
"The Minister of Economic Planning and Development Atupele Muluzi convinced us that the economy had reached the point of a malaria patient choosing between bitter Quinine and Panado. Now the vice president is telling us 'Quinine for the rest of you but Panado for us'. What he should know is that Quinine produces side effects," Chinsinga said.
The opposition DPP said Kachali had 'insulted the intelligence of Malawians' and advised him to be extremely careful on how the leadership reacts to advice and criticisms.
"We are concerned that such statementscan come from the second highest office in the land. Why should it be only Malawians who swallow a bitter pill? If the executive minimizes on travel and save tax payers money, that is part and parcel of financial prudence," DPP spokesperson Nicholas Dausi said. Dausi, an 'orator' in his own right, advised the vice president to rise above 'platform politics'.
MCP chief whip in Parliament Joseph Njobvuyalema asked Kachali to stop behaving as if Malawians put him in power such that he could take them for granted.
"The veep ought to know that Malawians didn't elect him. He was appointed by one person (the president) and Malawians are yet to be satisfied with his capabilities. Such utterances from an unelected person are unfortunate and rude," said Njobvuyalema.
The MCP MP said he was personally offended that a man whom Malawians are providing with security, a salary and food can insult them in such a way.
Civil and Political Space Platform member Billy Mayaya was just as shocked that a political leader the caliber of the vice president could utter such words to a nation suffering from decisions made by his own administration.
"If people are raising concerns on the need for government to exercise austerity and they are not ready to listen to the people ,then it's their own fault. If they are repeating the mistakes of the previous government, its is going to be their downfall," Mayaya said.