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Lazarus Chakwera urged to trim Cabinet

As Gender Network wants 50% women

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John Kapito

As President Lazarus Chakwera is making some final touches to his Cabinet list, which is expected to be released either Wednesday or Thursday, civil society organisations and a consumer rights watchdog have urged the Malawi leader to trim the size of his Cabinet to at most 15.

Leading the calls for a lean Cabinet is Consumers Association of Malawi, with its executive director John Kapito also urging Chakwera to reduce the number of advisers to four.

He said taxpayers were tired of paying taxes that benefit friends of the President whose main job description could not be justified.

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“We want our taxpayers money prioritised and used in key economic growth sectors that can grow the economy. It is wrong and a sin to collect money from the poor in the form of taxes and share that money to appease few selected friends of the President.

“We are requesting the President to merge most of the ministries and put them under his office or that of the Vice President [Saulos Chilima] and [ensure that they are] managed by efficient directors,” Kapito said.

Non-Governmental Organisations Gender Coordination Network (GCN) Chairperson Barbara Banda said the dissolution of the Cabinet presents Chakwera with a golden opportunity to appoint a Cabinet that is made up of 50 percent men and 50 percent women.

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Banda said Chakwera should use the opportunity to walk the talk on meeting gender equality goals.

University of Malawi political analyst Ernest Thindwa said Malawians needed to understand that constituting a Cabinet was a technical as much as it was a political process.

Thindwa said, under perfect conditions, only the technical capabilities would be considered in appointing ministers but the reality is that there are political considerations as well.

“In our context, political considerations relating to the gender, ethnic/regional representation and, for the incumbent administration, representation of parties in the [Tonse] Alliance will be a formidable factor to be ignored.

“Ultimately, the President is under pressure to present to citizens a Cabinet that is generally acceptable. As such, he will have to do a careful balancing act between technical capabilities of appointees and political considerations,” Thindwa said.

University of Livingstonia political analyst George Phiri said Chakwera, in his national address on Monday, emphasized the character of Cabinet ministers, patriotism, sobriety and integrity.

“This shows that, in his next Cabinet, he will make sure that the criteria he has set will guide him to appoint the Cabinet that will serve the interest of Malawians,” Phiri said.

Human Rights Defenders Coalition Chairperson Gift Trapence said Chakwera had an opportunity to appoint ministers who could deliver.

“This is the right time to make a Cabinet assessment and appoint individuals who can perform other than figureheads.

“It is the time to look at all the parameters to have a Cabinet that is more representative and one that can make economic sense,” Trapence said.

In his address on Monday, Chakwera said he would announce a reconfigured Cabinet in two days.

According to Chakwera, the reconfigured Cabinet would exclude former Lands minister Kezzie Msukwa to allow him to answer corruption charges he is facing in court and to give him a chance to clear his name there.

“This is a decision I have made following yesterday [Monday]’s submission to me of an official ACB report on the charges the minister is facing, which is the same process I followed when I dismissed two ministers in the past,” Chakwera said.

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