Malawi Government says the resignation of Minister of Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe will not affect the country’s economic recovery plan (ERP) as “government programmes are not attached to individuals”.
Gondwe resigned from his ministerial post on Friday following his arrest and treason charges in connection with a plot to circumvent constitutional order on power transfer soon after the death of the late president Bingu wa Mutharika in April last year.
In an interview, Gondwe said: “It’s true [that I have resigned]. The reason should be obvious to you.”
He said he submitted his resignation to the President, but presidential press secretary Steven Nhlane said he was not sure if the President had received the letter as she had been in meetings the whole afternoon.
“Her Excellency enjoyed working with Honourable Goodall Gondwe, but under the circumstances where he has resigned on his own, there is nothing that she can do.”
Minister of Information Moses Kunkuyu, who also said he had not yet received information about Gondwe’s resignation, said the development will not affect implementation of the economic recovery plan (ERP).
“In an event that the minister leaves, we still believe that programmes [in that ministry] can go on under collective responsibility at Cabinet which also scales down to officials at the ministry.
“Every government programme is not attributed to an individual even if the programme may have been initiated by an individual. The programmes are shared and owned by government,” said Kunkuyu.
Gondwe was arrested on Monday together with acting DPP president Peter Mutharika, nine ex-ministers and top government officials including the then Chief Secretary to the Government Bright Msaka, who has since been replaced by Hawa Ndilowe.
The 11 spent three nights in police custody until Thursday when they were granted bail after being formally charged in court with treason and other additional charges.
Chancellor College political scientist Joseph Chunga described Gondwe’s decision to leave his Cabinet position as good.
“For somebody facing such serious charges, it would be very inappropriate for him to continue serving as minister. Resigning is the right thing to do. I was even expecting the appointing authority to replace him with another person,” said Chunga.
He, however, argued Gondwe’s resignation is a blow to government on harnessing expertise to drive the ERP which is led by the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development.
“In terms of expertise, his resignation is a minus on government because the President [must have seen] that he has potential to be the right candidate for the job,” said Chunga.
The arrest of Gondwe, Peter and nine others follows revelations contained in the report of the Commission of Inquiry into Mutharika’s death, exposing attempts to stop the then Vice- President, Joyce Banda, from ascending to power.
Apart from treason, Gondwe was also jointly charged with all other suspects on count six of “disobedience to statutory duty…for disobeying the Constitution by denying that the then Vice-President had automatically taken over the presidency despite knowing that Mutharika had died.”
Gondwe is also jointly charged with Peter, Msaka and former Minister of Health Jean Kalirani of conspiring to commit a felony by “conspiring within yourselves and some other unknown persons to commit treason.”
Other suspects in the case are former ministers Patricia Kaliati (Information and Civic Education), Symon Vuwa Kaunda (Sports and Youth Development), Henry Mussa (Local Government and Rural Development), as well as former deputy ministers Kondwani Nankhumwa (Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation) and Nicholas Dausi (Office of the President and Cabinet).
The list also includes Msaka’s former deputy Necton Mhura and the late president’s legal adviser Allan Ntata. Former presidential guard commander Duncan Mwapasa, who was also arrested on Monday and currently on police bail, is yet to be formally charged after his name was not included on the charge sheet.
Gondwe was appointed into Banda’s Cabinet to replace UDF presidential candidate Atupele Muluzi who resigned last year.
The 77-year-old former vice-president for International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Africa Region, served as economic advisor to United Democratic Front (UDF) and DPP governments before being appointed Finance Minister in 2004 when his economic policies were credited to have improved the economic situation in the country.
He later served as Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Environment Affairs before heading the Ministry of Local Government.
In October last year, Gondwe—who is an independent Member of Parliament for Mzimba North announced he would be retiring from active politics at the 2014 general elections.