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How does it feel to be chopped from cabinet?

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By Isaac Salima

The country’s constitution empowers the State President to fire and hire Cabinet Ministers.

Each time the President rings changes there is always that mixed public reaction, which can overwhelm one especially where you are the casualty.

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It must take mental strength and resolve to pick up the pieces and continue moving on and this probably must have been the feeling among those dropped when President Lazarus Chakwera dissolved his cabinet before appointing new one days later.

But then, how exactly does it feel when one gets the ‘chop’ and how have those who have experienced it before managed to handle it?

One Friday morning back in 2020, Chikwawa Central legislator Salim Bagus woke up as Minister of Tourism and he had some official assignments to fulfil within Blantyre.

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While in the thick of things, news filtered through that the then president Peter Mutharika had dissolved his cabinet. There was an impromptu end of his official tour as Bagus was visibly disturbed.

“Just like any human being, you get affected with such disturbing news but you have to accept it because that is what is expected when you are appointed in those positions.

“It is painful because the national flag on your ministerial vehicle has to be removed and the chauffer takes you to your final destination as you find yourself other means of transportation,” Bagus said.

Former Sports Minister Ulemu Msungama is among those who Chakwera has fired. He met his fate while on a ministerial duty with the Flames in Cameroon.

He was mocked and called all sorts of names on most social media platforms.

However, he said he was far from being disappointed.

“When I heard the news, the feeling was not the same but I am ok,” he said during the week.

Phalombe North East parliamentarian Anna Kachikho was in 2018 dropped as Lands, Housing and Urban Development Minister. In an interview with Times this week, she pointed out that being fired from cabinet can be very upsetting.

“Your feel embarrassed. You need somebody to e n c o u r a g e you. Last time I was fired, I felt bitter when I learnt about the news because you are not informed in advance,” Kachikho said.

Amosi Mailosi once served as Deputy Defence Minister under the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regime. He said being dropped from cabinet can be frustrating.

“You are entirely affected because politically, socially and financially is a big minus. You even lose credibility at constituency level and your rivals find room to decampaign you. Because of being demoralised, your commitment in party affairs reduces,” Mailosi said.

He said being in cabinet is a dream come true for many politicians.

“It means that the President has trust in you. It also means that financially you are a step ahead as being a cabinet minister has so many benefits.

“However, you are not consulted when being appointed or fired as you just hear it from the radio or other platforms, just like anybody else,” Mailosi said.

Considered as one of the performing ministers during the DPP-led administration, Peter Kumpalume had been serving as Minister of Health but was in 2017 kicked out of cabinet – a development that surprised many people in the country. But how did he take it?

“I was in the office. I anticipated that one day and unexpectedly, I would be dropped from cabinet. So, I did what I had planned already. I took my personal file, said goodbye to my office staff and said goodbye to management. I wasn’t shocked as in politics you must accept the least probable.

“I sent a message thanking the President for the opportunity to serve Malawians through the office of the minister, and the President duly acknowledged my message.

“There is really no need to get angry. It is a position only a few have had the privilege of serving,” Kumpalume said.

Is there any need to alert someone that they are being fired from the cabinet?

Political analyst Ernest Thindwa said there is no need for the President to do so.

“But there is need for periodic meetings between the President and his cabinet ministers so that when he has issues, he communicates to them. In this way, it gives opportunity to the ministers to have a picture of how the President views their performances,” Thindwa said.

Chakwera this week dissolved his cabinet on Monday before releasing a new one in bits on Wednesday and Thursday.

Asked how hectic it is to come up with a cabinet, former president Joyce Banda on Thursday only said: “No comment, thank you”.

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