Although President Lazarus Chakwera has been hailed for including more women in the new Cabinet which he hired over a period of three days, from Tuesday night January 25 to Friday January 28, there is nothing that has changed overall in as far as the statement that the appointment is making to the public, particularly the politics behind the appointments.
The new cabinet has 32 members including Chakwera and Chilima. Out of these, 12 are women, and out of the 12 women 5 are full Ministers whilst 7 are deputies. In terms of party affiliation, MCP has 23 Ministers in the new Cabinet seconded by UTM with 5 ministers whilst PPM and PP have ones minister each. Out the 30 members, 22 ministers are from the central region; the southern and eastern regions of the country share 5 ministerial positions whilst the northern region has 3 ministerial positions.
Although he has shuffled around Ministers to new ministries, Chakwera has largely maintained the same faces in the new Cabinet. For example, MCP Secretary General, Eisenhower Mkaka has been moved from Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Ministry of Forestry and Natural Resources swapping ministries with previous holder of this ministry, Nancy Tembo. Former Minister of Homeland Security, Richard Chimwendo Banda has been pushed to the Ministry of Youth and Sports replacing the chopped Ulemu Nsungama.
So many organizations and individuals including the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) appealed to President Lazarus Chakwera to reshuffle his cabinet over issues of corruption and incompetence. The call was also in line with what the President Chakwera himself promised at his inauguration that he will dissolve his cabinet within six months of taking office after initial assessment. The decision is therefore long overdue.
However, it is not clear as to who has been fired due to incompetence and who has been fired because they were entangled in issues of corruption. As for the former Minister of Lands and Housing, Kezzie Msukwa, it was known that he would not be coming back because he is being investigated by the Anti-Corruption-Bureau (ACB) for allegedly receiving bribes and kickbacks from corruption kingpin, Zuneth Sattet. It is also clear that the names that have been linked to Satter’s corruption have safely been returned to cabinet albeit to different ministerial portfolios.
When he was Leader of Opposition, President Lazarus Chakwera was an ardent advocate of a lean cabinet. Often times he made scathing attacks on the former President, Peter Mutharika for maintaining a 20 member cabinet which he said was ‘large’ in relation to the Malawian economy.
This is the reason why many pundits, have called Chakwera’s new cabinet as a missed opportunity because this is where he should have shown seriousness by purging out Ministers entangled in corruption and at the same time maintaining a lean cabinet in view of the troubled times the country is going through due to Covid 19.
Instead Chakwera has appointed a 31member cabinet, including creating some useless ministries like the Ministry of Unity, which is contrary to what he was preaching when he was outside government.
With 22 ministers coming from one region, the central region, and only 5 ministers from the eastern and southern region, the cabinet is also not representative of the whole nation and has completely departed from public expectation that it would be lean and clean.
Cumulatively, the eastern and southern regions represents almost 4 million voters according to voters’ data from last elections. By appointing only 5 Ministers from this region, and packing 22 Ministers from the central region, what statement is Chakwera making?
Is he interested in obtaining votes from this region, or he is appointing Ministers based on the region that votes for MCP the most during elections? This is also the reason why others accuse Chakwera of being nepotistic in his tendencies and this cabinet appointment only serves to confirm that conclusion.
Some of the new faces in the cabinet include Sam Kawale, Minister of Lands; Mark Katsonga Phiri, Minister of Trade and Industry; Albert Mbawala, Minister of Mining; Ibrahim Matola, Minister of Energy; Harry Mkandawire, Deputy Minister of Defence; Deus Gumba, Deputy Minister of Lands; Enock Phale, Deputy Minister of Health and John Bande, Deputy Minister of Water and Sanitation.
Those that have been dropped from the cabinet include former Minister of Trade, Roy Kachale; former Minister of Youth and Sports, Ulemu Msungama; former Minister of Mining, Rashid Gaffer; former Minister of Lands and Housing, Kezzie Msukwa; Deputy Minister of health, Chrissie Kalamula Kanyasho and Minister of Finance, Felix Mlusu.
We can also add former Minister of Energy, Newton Kambala and former Attorney General, Chikosa Silungwe. Chilima has also been striped of the economic planning portfolio which has since reverted to the Ministry of Finance under the new Minister, Sosten Gwengwe.
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