When a president comes into power, most people who feel they contributed to his/her success expect to be given a public position. Some expect to be appointed as Cabinet ministers, others presidential advisers or assistants. These are the appointments the president does not delay to make so that he/she starts work right away. President Lazarus Chakwera did the same.
Naturally, appointments face a lot of criticism, with many people saying the president has appointed the wrong people in public positions. This brings in a lot of discussions in public spaces which may force the president to review the appointments. For example, Chakwera promised to reshuffle his first Cabinet, but one year on nothing has happened. But luck was with him that some of the ministers ‘assessed themselves’—they were found to be dishonest and the President had no choice, but to dismiss them. This also happened to his adviser and some assistants. He had to let them go. Indeed, these appointees abused their offices. But these appointments are the jobs most Malawians would love to have. So, the dismissed officials should not think the opportunities will come back.
When working close to the president, one should know which information should be kept secret and give respect to the president. The problem in this country is that there is a culture of rumour mongering. Therefore, some people want to become sources of information all the time. For obvious reasons, they must not peddle rumours from State House. The president has well-organised channels to tell people what is happening in the country at his own time.
It must be emphasised that if one is an adviser or a Cabinet minister one can only advise the president after collecting and analysing relevant data. It is not important to give the president wrong information so that people should start asking if the president really knows is happening around him. This can obviously reduce power of the president and it must be avoided at any cost.
Every president must know that there are many intellectuals who can be appointed as his Cabinet ministers or advisers. This idea of clinging to party zealots as advisers and Cabinet members is not working. There are many educated people in Malawi, but they are not appointed in any of the above positions. For example, there is Humphreys Mvula who is usually on TV debates. He shows he has a lot of ideas on how a country can develop. In fact, he was once tried and tested to improve the operations of UTM Party from a loss-making to a profit-making company. He can be tried again on those loss-making government companies or parastatals.
Looking for presidential appointments is one thing and seeing where these people come from is another thing. Therefore, there is need to scrutinised the nominees’ credentials so that they fit in various jobs at State House or in Cabinet.
Presidential appointments can easily backfire. For example, recently there was issue of the so-called ‘liquor thieves’. These were diplomats in the Malawi High Commission in South Africa. It is obvious that when appointed, they were chosen in good faith and for them to start buying liquor using diplomatic cards for re-sell to South Africans at a cheaper price meant that they were stealing from South African Government. AS a result, they were declared persona non grata and were recalled.
This was not only embarrassing to the diplomats, but also to the President who appointed them. They should, therefore, not expect to be appointed to any diplomatic posts. In the same vein, ambassadors, high commissioners and staff who were not withdrawn must be naïve that they can be reappointed.
One still remembers fraud at Malawi Embassy in Ethiopia and other embassies that have not been resolved. People must be wondering why it is taking too long to settle these cases. There is a tendency in this country that wheels of justice move too slowly. As such, many people get away with these crimes. In so doing, government loses money.
Even in local presidential appointments of board members’ parastatals, people have spoken a lot that the appointments should be on merit not for appeasement. The country needs parastatals board members who are hardworking and this can only be achieved if intelligent and hardworking board members are appointed. Presidential appointments should be the last to be abused.