President Lazarus Chakwera’s daughter Violet has started work at Malawi’s High Commission in the United Kingdom (UK), where she is serving as first secretary responsible for investments, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed yesterday.
“She has reported for work,” Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Rejoice Shumba briefly said in an interview.
Her appointment has stirred debate, with some quarters of the society criticising Chakwera for practising nepotism which, they say, he rallied against during the erstwhile Democratic Progressive Party regime.
However, Presidential Press Secretary Anthony Kasunda told The Daily Times on Wednesday that the President did not interfere in the appointment process, which, he said, was left in the hands of Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials.
Kasunda said the President only appointed heads and deputy heads of missions.
“The President dismissed false reports that his daughter was going to Brussels as a diplomat, a lie which remains a lie to this day.
“Secondly, the President dismissed false allegations that he had personally appointed his daughter to any foreign mission, for the fact remains that the President only appointed heads and deputy heads of mission and left all other vacant positions in foreign missions to be filled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs without his interference,” he said.
Talking to the BBC’s ‘Hard Talk’ last year, Chakwera said he did not influence processes of appointing people that serve as support staff in Malawi’s missions.
“And I want you to know [the truth], because I want to grow strong institutions, and I want to have ministries and departments and agencies [that] operate with minimal interference from a president. Those processes are being followed,” he told BBC’s, Sarah Montague.
Earlier, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) Chairperson Gift Trapence condemned the appointment of the President’s daughter as another example of the Tonse Alliance-led administration’s nepotistic tendencies.
In an interview Thursday, Trapence said Chakwera lied to Malawians and that his daughter should, therefore, be recalled from the UK.
“The President lied to Malawians. He refused that the daughter is not going to the embassy. This is the nepotism that Malawians are against. HRDC demands the recall of the daughter,” he said.
Apart from the appointment of Violet, who is Chakwera’s second-born daughter, the other appointment that stirred debate is that of Margaret Kamoto, mother-in-law to Vice-President Saulos Chilima, who was appointed Malawi High Commissioner to Zambia.
Some sections of the society also faulted the Tonse Alliance-led administration for appointing four members of HRDC to diplomatic positions.
In a related development, recalled diplomats in Washington, the United States, including Ambassador Edward Sawerengera, have missed the December 31 2021 deadline they were given to return to Malawi.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Rejoice Shumba confirmed the development, but said the diplomats had been given new dates.
“No one has returned yet but efforts are being made to ensure that they return to Malawi as soon as possible.
“Festive holidays and the scare of the Covid new variant called Omicron disrupted the facilitation of the required logistics for the return of the diplomats. However, the ministry has given them the dates of 8th and 11th January 2022, to return and air tickets have already been issued,” she said.
The diplomats were given the December 31 2021 deadline in a letter to Sawerengera, signed by the ministry’s principal secretary Luckie Sikwese.
Sikwese accused the envoy of frustrating the ministry’s efforts to have the recalls implemented.
“Deducing from the demands which you have made on behalf of the other recalled diplomats at the mission and your behalf during the last two virtual meetings… it is clear that you are, indeed, obstructing the ministry’s efforts to have the recalls implemented,” the letter reads.
Sikwese alleged that Sawerengera had demanded that personal effects of the recalled diplomats be loaded into containers and transported straight to the shipping vessel in readiness for departure for Malawi, and not to a warehouse, which Sikwese said was unreasonable.
“It is against the above background that the ministry has reluctantly been moved to give you and all the recalled diplomats a non-negotiable deadline of December 31 2021 to depart Washington DC for Malawi. The ministry will in this regard proceed to issue air tickets to you and the recalled diplomats, including respectively entitled dependents,” he said.