Political observers have noted that there is no person from Yao tribe as full ministers in the new 24-member cabinet in which President Peter Mutharika has included five women – two ministers and three deputies – with 15 new faces comprising 10 full ministers and five deputies.
The new cabinet has 18 full ministers and six deputies, a total of 24 and up from 20 in the last cabinet, according to a statement released by Lloyd Muhara, chief secretary to the government.
“There is no Yao minister in the new Cabinet which is dominated by the people from the Lhomwe belt. Those picked from the Yao-land like Bright Msaka and Ralph Jooma are not Yaos,” observed Atwel Kabungwe, a social –political commentator.
In terms of regions, the South, where Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) got a majority of their votes, dominates with 16 members, including the President while the North has two full ministers and two deputies.
The Central region has the Vice President; two full ministers and one deputy.
Governance and rights activist Makhumbo Munthali told Nyasa Times that on regional balance, Mutharika seems to have given in to the “perennial temptation” of largely appointing those from his tribe [Lhomwe] and Southern region who voted him in large numbers and punish the North and Centre for rejecting him.
“While some may argue that Mutharika is justified to do so because he didn’t have many MPs in the North and Centre, it is important to point out that Mutharika was not obliged to appoint only MPs. He would have reached out to other capable individuals outside Parliament across the three regions for such appointment,” Munthali said.
The social and governance commentator further told Nyasa Times that, certainly, Mutharika Cabinet cannot be said to have been merit-selected but rather largely based on “pursuing appeasement and nepotistic or regionalist goals, and rewarding those who campaigned hard for the party in the election.”
Said he: “This is not only seen in Cabinet appointments but also the list of additional advisors to the already long list he has. Certainly, we should expect more of such criteria being evident in the appointment of people into the Boards and Embassies.”
Mutharika has made his vice president, Everton Chimulirenji, minister responsible for disaster and relief management and public events, while Mark Michael Botomani has become the country’s minister of information and civic education.
By virtue of being information minister, Botomani will also be the government’s spokesperson.
Mutharika has retained five former cabinet ministers, namely Foreign Minister Francis Kasaila, Homeland Security Minister Nicholas Dausi, Kondwani Nankhumwa, who is now minister of agriculture, Bright Msaka, now minister of justice, and Jappie Mhango, now health minister.
Five women appear in Mutharika’s new cabinet — three of them, Martha Chiuluntha Ngwira, Grace Kwelepeta and Esther Majaza, as deputies for the education, gender and local government ministries respectively.
The two other women who were appointed as full ministers are Martha Lunji as labor minister and Mary Navicha as minister of gender, children, disability and social welfare.
In his comment, Munthali said while there are some new faces, the Cabinet is largely a complete departure from what the President promised in the 2019 DPP manifesto and the Njamba victory celebration rally.
“The President promised the best ever developmental focused Cabinet that would be characterised by inclusivity, merit, and lean Cabinet of 20 amongst other factors. However, the President has not only failed to honour the 20 sized Cabinet promise but also failed to ensure there is regional and gender balance in the appointment.
“For example, the President has failed to adhere to the tenets of Gender Equality Act, SADC Gender Protocol and AU Women Protocol by appointing 20% of women in Cabinet,” he said.
On Deputy Ministers and Presidential advisors appointments, Munthali said: “As I have always said we do not need Deputy Ministers and Presidential Advisors as it’s costly. Besides, the the full Ministers and Principal Secretaries ably cover the roles these positions do, and as such they are unnecessary.”
He said the Principle Secretaries of relevant Ministries can ably be utilised as technical advisors to the President on matters relating to their Ministry
Notwithstanding, the governance expert said the President should be commended for maintaining some “star performers” from his previous Cabinet such as Bright Msaka and Joseph Mwanamveka whom in his view have also been rightly placed.
“In summary, Mutharika has sticked to the old script associated with second terms of Presidents in Malawi where appointments are largely based on rewarding patronage, appeasements and pursuing narrow political interests at the expense of public interest . It can be said beyond reasonable doubt that Mutharika’s Cabinet is not inspiring and a missed opportunity to unify the country,” said Munthali.
In an editorial comment, the Nyasa Times stated that apart from education portfoli, all the other key ministries—health, agriculture, finance and tourism—have been left in the hands of tired soldiers whose track record doesn’t inspire confidence.
“All in all, Mutharika is struggling with legitimacy issues and it is only fair for him to win that through strengthening his soldiers,” reads the comment.
Mutharika won a tight race in May with 38.5 percent of the vote which the opposition are challenging the outcome in court.
A panel of five judges will rule Friday whether or not to dismiss the case, as requested by lawyers for Mutharika and his DPP.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :