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Malawi swears in top comedian as VP

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Top comedian-turned-politician Micheal Usi has been sworn in as Malawi’s vice-president at a ceremony held in parliament in the capital, Lilongwe.

The 55-year-old replaces Saulos Chilima, who died in a plane crash earlier this month, along with eight other people.

Dr Usi received a standing ovation when he spoke after his inauguration, saying he accepted the role with a mixture of sadness and gratitude.

He promised to honour his predecessor’s memory and thanked President Lazarus Chakwera for believing in him as he takes up his position as vice-president in the power-sharing government.

His appointment has certainly left Malawians divided.

Some have been sharing clips of his acting career on social media and questioning whether he is serious enough to take up such a senior role.

Others however have praised President Chakwera for appointing Chilima’s party deputy and honouring the spirit of the alliance between their two parties.

Dr Usi is no stranger to controversy given his acting career. He is popularly known as “Manganya”, the name of a mischievous character he still plays in the popular TV sitcom Tikuferanji.

His aide told the BBC on Friday that he was filming an episode as recently as last week.

He has been a staple on national radio and television for more than two decades making him one of the most recognisable local celebrities.

Dr Usi has also been a passionate advocate for developing and promoting Malawi’s film industry in which it is difficult to make a living.

In fact, he first funded his acting career by working as a hospital clinician. He has a qualification in clinical medicine – most patients in Malawi will be seen by a clinician as the country has a shortage of doctors.

This fueled his passion for improving the lot of poor communities and for many years he worked at the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (Adra), a Christian non-governmental organisation.

He served there in various capacities, including heading the organisation as its country director – and through him Adra funded various soaps on radio and TV that also aimed to educate people about HIV and other social issues.

The new vice-president, who is married with two daughters, also holds a PhD in youth development from the University of Bedfordshire in the UK.

Despite his position at Adra, his acting career never took a backseat – and he was participating in various productions, mostly in the local Chichewa language.

Such was his popularity as a comedian that when he founded a political movement around seven years ago – many people just thought it was a prank.

This is because he had a reputation as a trickster – his most famous ruse was fooling people into believing that he had been a good boxer at high school and was looking to return to the ring.

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