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Lazarus Chakwera challenged to beat Bakili Muluzi’s Cabinet record

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By Isaac Salima:

As the country awaits the announcement of a new Cabinet, owing to President Lazarus Chakwera’s New Year message to the nation, commentators are of the view that it is possible for the President to beat the post- 1994 record of a 19-member Cabinet.

Former president Bakili Muluzi remains unbeatable, as far as the appointment of a lean Cabinet is concerned, as he appointed a 19-member Cabinet during his first term of office.

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Muluzi’s first Cabinet consisted of 19 members, including the President and his vice.

Chakwera’s Cabinet, on the other hand, consists of 30 members with two vacant positions, namely those of Minister of Lands and Deputy Minister of Agriculture.

Chakwera has since been challenged to borrow a leaf from Muluzi.

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“It is possible for Chakwera to beat Muluzi’s record because most of the people who are appointed into Cabinet are appointed on the ground of political appeasement. You look at the Tonse Alliance, every party would like to be considered and you end up having a bloated Cabinet,” Victor Chipofya, a good governance expert, said.

Former Cabinet minister in Bingu wa Mutharika’s administration, Martin Kansichi, said this is the right time for Chakwera to demonstrate that he cares for Malawians.

“If I were to advise the President on the size of the Cabinet, I would ask him to ensure that he thoroughly assesses and evaluates roles of the existing ministries using existing structures in his office to ensure that whatever changes may be introduced shall not create confusion, let alone duplication of efforts, thereby facilitating unnecessary overlaps in the budgetary expenditure,” Kansichi said.

Politician George Chaponda said he supports the President’s idea of introducing a lean Cabinet.

“I support the President’s idea to reduce the number of his Cabinet ministers to at least 20. He can do away with deputies and also advisers.” Chaponda said.

United Democratic Front interim President Lilian Patel said, much as she cannot compare Muluzi’s to Chakwera’s time, it is important to learn from others.

“I expect the Cabinet to be a true representation of things on the ground and that members should be appointed from across the nation so that all people should be represented,” Patel said.

However, after impressing with a lean Cabinet, Muluzi had to bloat it to 42 at the time he left the mantle in 2004.

Muluzi’s successor Bingu wa Mutharika appointed a 29-member Cabinet in 2004 before ballooning it to 42 in his second term.

Former leader Joyce Banda, who happened to be Mutharika’s predecessor, appointed a sizeable 23-member Cabinet when she came to power in 2012.

In 2014, when the erstwhile leader Peter Mutharika took over power, he lived up to his promise of appointing a lean Cabinet when he came up with a 20-member Cabinet.

But his subsequent appointments took the number of ministers to 32.

The bloated number of Cabinet ministers has been eating much into the country’s breeding economy.

In June 2020, the government revised benefits and entitlements of ministers and their deputies.

Cabinet ministers’ monthly perks were adjusted to K1.8 million, with their deputies getting K1.5 million.

The development means that the country spends about K48 million on paying 20 full Cabinet ministers and eight deputies.

Other entitlements for the ministers and their deputies include motor vehicle loan of K50 million, general purpose advance of K9 million, emergency advance of K3 million, house rental allowance of K1.2 million, hospitality allowance of K500,000, airtime allowance paid by the ministry at K100,000 with deputy minister’s allowance at K80,000.

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