President Banda advised to form ‘meritorious’ govt

Political commentators have advised new Malawi President Joyce Banda to form a meritorious government- one that brings in the best people to help address the country’s crippling challenges.

The worst economic crisis coupled with poor governance records, haunted Banda’s predecessor, late Bingu wa Mutharika, plunging Malawi into a failed state status.

Rafiq Hajat, director of the think tank Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI) advises that “President Banda should not succumb to wooing MP’s with ministerial positions to build parliamentary support,” saying it  will lead to a replay of the anti defection law, Section 65 saga.

President Joyce Banda pledged no retribution

“She ought to form a government of national unity by forming an inclusive meritorious cabinet of all political parties,” Hajat advised.

University of Malawi political science professor Boniface Dulani currently at Department of Political Science at Michigan State University in United States says Malawi is blessed to have so many capable people and yet they are always ignored.

He tells Nyasa Times that President Banda “has the advantage in that although she is PP (People’s Party), that party does not have MPs she would need to pander to. As for the senior PP leadership, we should remember that these people did not necessarily help JB (President Banda) to get the presidency as would happen in an election.”

Dulani pointed out that President Banda “has simply benefited from Mutharika’s death and the fact that she stuck through being VP despite the pressure she must have faced since she was expelled from the DPP. “

He says:” I hope therefore that she looks beyond the traditional political class in Malawi and consider bringing some of the business captains, academics, civil society leaders …to work with her, not only in cabinet, but in various areas to address the challenges the country is facing and everyone is expecting her to address soon. “

Dulani adds: “A purely technical and apolitical Cabinet of course might be too idealistic – she could sprinkle in a few members from Parliament, particularly from the opposition or from among those who joined her PP when DPP was still the main political force in the land.”

The political scientists says “the lessons of what might happen to an obstructionist Parliament are still too vivid- one simply needs to look at the 2009 elections and how the Malawi electorate punished the opposition.”

Opportunists and cowards

Dulani however says “the worst thing she can do is to retain some of the members of the Mutharika cabinet. While we are already seeing much cabinet and MPs coming out to claim they are behind JB, she needs to know that these are essentially opportunists and cowards.”

Explains Dulani: “Opportunists in that if they were genuine, they should have supported her when she was being expelled from the DPP, in the same way the likes of Anita Kalinde, Joyce Maseko did.

“They are also cowards in that they were there when the bad laws, the zero deficit budgets were being passed. If they were true patriots, they should have stood up to oppose those laws, to challenge Bingu against picking needless fights with donors, the IMF, Malawians – like Henry Phoya.”

Accountability not revenge

Dulani gave President Banda kudos for her pledge to avoid retribution.

“That is nice and good. However, at the same time, this should not mean letting those who committed criminal acts in the name of government to go scot free. It is important to make sure that she sends out a signal that anyone who breaks the law will be held accountable. That is not retribution that is right. “

He says “People who stole public resources with impunity should be held to account; those who murdered innocent Malawians on July 20th 2011, those who murdered Robert Chasowa, should be brought to book.”

President Banda already announced she has set up an inquiry to probe the murder of a student activist, Robert Chasowa in September 2011.

“Those who harassed others in the exercise of their freedoms on the DPP watch need to be held accountable. Those who willingly broke the law to arrest innocent Malawians in the exercise of their rights should be made to answer,” says Dulani.

Dulani also says “those who wanted to abrogate the Constitutional order by seeking ways to bypass Joyce Banda for the presidency should be made to answer so that no one tries a similar ruse in future.

“This will not be revenge – it will be enforcing the law, exactly what Joyce Banda swore to do on [April7] when she took the oath of office.”

Government of unity

Former president Bakili Muluzi also advised President Banda to appoint people on merit in the interest of the nation as Malawi grapples with economic, political and social problems.

Muluzi, who is also Africa’s goodwill ambassador, recently said Banda needs political parties in Parliament to pass bills and budgets to ensure development.

In a BBC interview on Friday, President Banda hinted that she seeks to build a nationally representative government of national unity when she announces a new Cabinet.

“I would like to see me retain as many members of the Cabinet that are already in government. But I would also like to reach out and see if people from other parties can come along because at the centre of all this our economy is in a shambles right now and what I think is that all parties across the aisle in Parliament have something to contribute towards the development of Malawi,” said Banda.

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