Why JB dropped Lipenga, Kasambara from Malawi cabinet

Malawi President Joyce Banda announced a new cabinet on Wednesday dropping finance minister Ken Lipenga and senior lawyer Ralph Kasambara as Justice Minister. She didn’t give any reasons but new information has emerged that she blames Lipenga for failing to deal with the malfeasance at treasury and Kasambara is being linked to the shooting of last month of the Budget Director, Paul Mphwiyo.

Mphwiyo survived and is recovering in South Africa where he is under tight security at some undisclosed house.

“Lipenga was dropped after growing pressure from civil society demanded that he resigns because the ‘Cash-gate’ scam happened under his watch”, said someone close to the presidency.

While Kasambara is said to have been one of the backstage players in the racket that opened a can of worms after the shooting of Mphwiyo.

The Lilongwe First Grade Magistrate has since issued a warrant of arrest for Kasambara for attempted murder.

Ralph Kasambara: Fired
Ralph Kasambara: Fired
Lipenga: Dropped
Lipenga: Dropped

“He will be arrested anytime this week,” said a senior police officer who asked for anonymity.

Just like Lipenga, Kasambara has denied any involvement.

But some western donors in the capital are happy that the President’s decision on cabinet is an indication that there are no sacred cows.

“The decision to drop Mr Kasambara is a good signal from the President …what we wait to see now is how she moves from here in terms of bringing the culprits involved in the looting to book,” said a senior diplomat in Lilongwe.

“We expect her not to spare anyone to show us how serious her administration is on fighting corruption.”

The allegations of corruption and embezzlement have been a setback for President Banda, who has been on a drive to restore donor confidence in one of Africa’s poorest nations.

She dissolved cabinet after police arrested several junior officials in her government in recent weeks on suspicion of stealing state funds.

Banda, who faces an election next year, has won acclaim in the West for austerity measures and moves to bolster the economy of the aid-dependent Malawi.

But steps such as an IMF-backed devaluation of the kwacha currency have stoked inflation, raised the price of food for the rural poor and eroded Banda’s domestic support.

The government said in a statement that Maxwell Mkwezalamba had been named as the new finance minister in the 32-member cabinet.

Mkwezalamba brings with him massive experience as an economist at the African Union where he served as commissioner for a decade. Mkwezalamba was commissioner for Economic Affairs for the African Union Commission, before he retired early this year.

He replaces Ken Lipenga, who has denied any wrongdoing in the scandal that has dented his otherwise clean reputation with the country’s main donors.

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