President Lazarus Chakwera has come under heavy criticism for appointing a Cabinet that some observers believe is largely based on appeasement, nepotism and regionalism.
But in an interview with British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) last evening, Chakwera said what was in his mind when he was coming up with the Cabinet was not someone’s marriage, district of origin or their relationship with another.
Since the announcement of the full Cabinet on Wednesday evening, which has seen family members and spouses, among others, being taken on board, Malawians have been taking to the social media to criticise the President for apparently failing to depart from the vices which are said to have been prevalent in the previous administration.
They have also accused Chakwera of rewarding Malawi Congress Party members who are largely from the Central Region with ministerial positions at the expense of other capable Malawians from other regions.
Legal practitioner Silvester Ayuba James argued that it is not enough for Malawians to judge the Cabinet based on performance alone but that its composition and distribution per region matters too.
“The appearance of this Cabinet in terms of distribution does not help our man’s case in terms of being a President who does not practice nepotism. In its current texture, no matter how well this Cabinet performs, it will be difficult to use its performance to outdo its nepotistic outlook,” James wrote on his Facebook page.
But governance expert Felix Lombe told The Daily Times yesterday that the massive reaction from Malawi’s is healthy for democracy and that it could be a useful tool to Chakwera’s administration.
Lombe said Malawians are voicing out because they know they can be heard, saying civic apathy would have meant Malawians have lost hope of being heard or their grievances being addressed at all.
“You see, the Tonse Alliance raised the bar so high that Malawians have higher expectations from this administration, so this is good feedback to the current administration as the response would have not been this way had it been Malawians were expecting anything less,” Lombe said.
He also said the feedback means Chakwera has not started as per Malawians’ expectations as loyalty seems to have played a critical role in the appointments.
“But the President has hard decisions to make here; he may reverse his decisions and be seen to be a listening leader by others while some quarters will see him as someone who is easily shaken,” Lombe said.
Meanwhile, in the BBC interview, the Malawi leader said he has heard the concerns from Malawians and that he would be addressing the nation on the same after also meeting leaders of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) yesterday.
HRDC, led by Gift Trapence, had sought the audience on the same Cabinet issue.
Chakwera said he made appointments to the Cabinet based on the need to balance political and other issues happening in the country.
“Today I held talks with CSOs regarding the same issue [of Cabinet] and I promise that I will continue listening to concerns being raised but it must be noted that those criticising the Cabinet must appreciate other factors such as youth representation, various groups of people from the north to south and women representation,” the President said.
On corruption, Chakwera said there would be no witch-hunting and that those who have cases hanging over their heads will have to answer for them according to the law.
“We will strengthen governance institutions to ensure those who break the law are held to account and that people start to respect the law,” he said.
The 31-member Cabinet that Chakwera has appointed includes veteran politicians, business people, private-sector players and youths, among others.
Eric Msikiti is a Senior Reporter/News Producer at Times Group. Though relatively young, Eric boasts years of experience in Malawi’s media industry.