Commentators hail Malawi cabinet sacking over graft

Political commentators have hailed the move taken by President Joyce Banda by dissolving her cabinet with immediate effect amid allegations of widespread corruption in government.

A small group of protesters  led by consumer and human rights activist John Kapito marched in the capital city of Lilongwe on Thursday and delivered a petition calling for the sacking of top officials, including Finance Minister Ken Lipenga, over the scandal.

Earlier on Thursday, the European Union warned that it would not release a scheduled budget finance of 29m euros in December to the aid-dependent country until the government deals with a widespread multi-million dollar treasury fraud.

“There is need for a clean-up before we make our disbursement,” Alexander Baum, the head of the EU mission in Malawi, said in a statement.

Kanyongolo: The onus is on the President

Kanyongolo:  No time frame for hiring new cabinet

Malawi is a poor African state, heavily dependent on financial aid from the European Union (EU) and other foreign powers.

Reacting to the sacking of all ministers,  University of Malawi political commentator Dr Henry Chingaipe  said  it  is a welcome development considering that Malawians have been crying for the cabinet to be dissolved and to have other ministers axed following the ‘cash-gate’ scandal which implicates some cabinet ministers

“My view is that the dissolution of the cabinet is a sign that [President Joyce Banda] is governing more seriously and responding to the wishes of the people in terms of cleaning the house in order,” he told a local radio.

Chingaipe also said this will help increase levels of trust which Malawian has in her in responding to matters of national interest.

university of Malawi law professor Edge Kanyongol said it will be up to the President to decide when to appoint new cabinet ministers as the laws of Malawi do not put a time frame for which the president should appoint the cabinet after dissolution.

“The absence of the cabinet does not necessary creates a bigger gap in government administration except on policy issues. Most of the works in government are done by civil servants who will still be doing their normal duties in the absence of cabinet”.

An international political analyst on Malawi told Nyasa Times that President Banda “has suffered a paradox in recent months; exceptional popularity abroad and equally exceptional unpopularity within Malawi. This has to a large extent been due to the complacency, under-performance, and, as we have been discovering this past fortnight, appalling levels of corruption on part of some of her cabinet ministers.”

The analyst who asked not to be named said by dissolving her cabinet, President Banda has demonstrated “ a zero tolerance attitude towards such officials, and a willingness to listen to sound advice. “

He pointed out: “However, this action is only the first step towards clearing the rot that has plagued the Office of the President and Cabinet. As Malawi’s government has suffered a blow to its credibility and its economy at a pivotal stage, it is crucial that when she reforms her cabinets, she assembles a team that not only has credibility with the public, but the capacity to continue stabilising the economy. Get these two things right and the next election will be in the bag for her.

“However, this first step she has taken should not be underestimated. “

President Banda’s office said a new cabinet would be appointed in due course, without elaborating.

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