By Jameson Chauluka & Taonga Sabola
Political, economic commentators and Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa have frowned at President Lazarus Chakwera’s decision to fire Agriculture minister Lobin Lowe, saying the decision will backfire if “dead wood” is left scot-free in Cabinet.
On Tuesday, Chakwera fired Lowe and his deputy Madalitso Kambauwa Wirima as the government races against time to implement this year’s Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP).
Nankhumwa has, for example, challenged the President to go a step further by dealing with Ministry of Agriculture technocrats and Smallholder Farmers Fertiliser Revolving Fund of Malawi officials connected to the K750 million fertiliser procurement scam.
“I listened to President Lazarus Chakwera’s national address with keen interest. My quick reaction is that the national address leaves a lot to be desired. It has left a lot of questions unanswered. I recently demanded that the Minister of Agriculture Honourable Lobin Lowe must be removed following the various bottlenecks rocking this year’s AIP, including a financial scandal. In his address, the President announced he had relieved Honourable Lowe of his ministerial position. President Chakwera also fired Honourable Madalitso Wirima Kambauwa, who deputised Honourable Lowe.
“While it was imperative to remove the two honourable individuals and appoint Honourable Sam Kawale to manage the agriculture portfolio, I had expected the President to take further steps to deal with the technical staff that connived in the infamous K750 million AIP scandal. I wish to inform the President that firing Honourable Lowe alone would not solve electricity and fuel woes this country is currently facing. Mr President, firing Honourable Lowe is not addressing the Admarc [Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation] issues; it is not going to bring food and water in our prisons,” he said.
However, political analyst Ernest Thindwa said Chakwera’s national address suggests that he can no longer spare “dead wood” in Cabinet regardless of one’s political affiliation.
“It is a realisation that, ultimately, Malawians will hold him and him alone accountable for the country’s socio-economic fortunes by the end the term and he is not prepared to sustain interpersonal relations among alliance partners at the expense of delivering the agenda,” Thindwa said.
Centre for Research and Consultancy Director Milward Tobias concurred.
He said it does not matter who helped Chakwera in the process of getting to power.
“Those that stand in the way of progress must be fired,” he said.
In his national address on Tuesday, Chakwera announced the removal of Lowe and Kambauwa Wirima for presiding over the mess in the implementation of the 2022 AIP