Another Cabinet goof
By now, Malawians must be horribly aware that one of the biggest mistakes they have made in recent years was to elect Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) as the country’s President.
Had Chakwera come on the campaign scene with honesty and a down-to-earth staging, perhaps we would have forgiven the numerous and preposterous bloopers he has made since he ascended to that demanding seat.
Rather, he promised paradise—a Malawi that would be free from corruption, cronyism, nepotism and clientelism.
In the run-up to the court-ordered June 23, 2020 presidential poll, Chakwera looked like the desperately sought-after messiah who would bring a new era of politics and governance in the country.
In his campaign and other public appearances, he exuded an aura of a leader who would not give in to the quirks of political monkeyshines once he was given a chance to govern this country.
On more than one occasion—like the promised saviour with only his silhouette appearing in a distant place—he flagrantly declared that he was the liberator Malawians had for so long longed for.
But it took less than a month for voters to know they had lunged onto that vital seat yet another satirist; a man who was only good at stylistically describing national progress without a dab of an attempt to mean what he said.
That is why his first ever Cabinet, which offered a sincere view of what he really was, failed to be in line with all the virtues he had extolled ahead of the election.
It was a committee of ministers fraught with familial tentacles and ridiculous levels of cronyism.
At least the President immediately sent across a strong message that he was not the fair-minded leader Malawians had elected, but just another awful one— perhaps, even worse than his predecessors.
But, truth be told, President Chakwera and his MCP have had one of the strongest oppositions in recent memory, which they were supposed to capitalise on in terms of bettering their governance system.
In the Tonse Alliance, that marriage of convenience which has eventually placed main partner UTM in a peripheral position, the President has not had much space to act according to the whims of his cronies.
The checks and balances have come from within, and that is a good thing.
So, why has Chakwera governed terribly the past two-and-a-half years? Why did he return on February 1 with yet another miscued Cabinet when he should have used the opportunity to make things right ahead of the elections which are just two-and-a-half years away?
Well, it could be because the President does not care about voters’ feelings as long as he sufficiently appeases his cronies and hangers-on.
Or it could be that he is not that powerful in that otherwise dominant seat and could only go to a certain extent in choosing who should be in his Cabinet.
Or it could be that Chakwera is still obsessed with politics, the way Malawi politics is, and feels those who pushed him in his presidential bid should be suitably rewarded.
That has been known to be one of the worst mistakes leaders make.
The Cabinet that the Office of the President and Cabinet announced in the wee hours of last Wednesday, at the behest of one of the country’s most indecisive leaders who will wait till the last minute to honour his own promise, is a blundered committee.
It is not even a lean one, if we seriously look into what that description entails.
It is not the best this country could ever produce.
So, the President’s January 1, 2023 declaration that he would go for a team that would be worthwhile in the midst of the numerous struggles that the country is facing was yet another charade.
It is preposterous that Chakwera thinks a reduction of Cabinet members, from 30 to 27, is really a drop that will maximise Malawi’s limited resources in improving public service delivery when we all know these officers are some of the biggest drainers of our taxes.
Why, in our miserable economy, should we maintain deputy ministers who we all know do literally nothing in their portfolios?
We have seen them sometimes crassly following their bosses on some mundane tasks because they have nothing worthwhile doing in their offices.
That is why when in that January 1 message, the President promised a leaner Cabinet, the general expectation was that he would come up with a team of, perhaps, around 20 ministers.
But, on the other hand, this is not strange at all. Chakwera has shown on several occasions that he is not willing to do according to public expectations.
By the way, was it even necessary to announce that he would reconstitute his Cabinet, more so when he knew he was not going to produce anything meaningful?
If at all you had any doubt about the kind of President Malawi has, you must now have a true picture.
We are in for yet another wasted five years, with a President who loves talking but chooses not to match his words with action.
Alick Ponje is a features writer at The Times Group. He graduated from the University of Malawi with a bachelor’s degree in education, majoring in literature in English. Follow him on Twitter @aponje