Governance commentators have faulted President Peter Mutharika’s retaining of Grace Chiumia in his new Cabinet, describing it as a disregard to the rule of law.
Chiumia, who is now Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development, was among other five legislators for whom the Director of Assets Declaration Christopher Tukula wrote Mutharika to fire from their positions for failure to declare their assets.
Tukula is on record as telling Weekend Nation last month that by not declaring their assets, Chiumia, who is Nkhata Bay West member of Parliament (MP), and five other MPs contravened Section 14 (3) of the Declaration of Assets, Liabilities and Business Interests Act of 2013. The other MPs who refused to declare their assets are George Chaponda, Willard Gwengwe, Denis Kadzinja, Christopher Mzomera Ngwira and Henry Shaba.
The six did not provide an explanation to the office for their failure to declare assets during the 2016/17 financial year.
But following a Cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday night, Mutharika, instead, moved Chiumia from the position of Minister of Civic Education, Culture and Community Development to her present portfolio.
In an interview Thursday, governance commentator Rafiq Hajat, said Mutharika needs to be held accountable for the appointment by relevant authorities in Parliament.
He said: “Simply put, this indicates a total disregard for the rule of law and as such, it constitutes a continuation of the culture of impunity within the political hierarchy. It is now up to Parliament and the civil society to call the President to account for this appointment.”
On his part, politician-cum-social commentator Humphrey Mvula said maintaining Chiumia in the Cabinet is an indication that some people live above the law as they are rewarded even when they contradict the law.
“What this implies is that there is a promotion of impunity because it shows that somebody can do wrong and still be rewarded with a Cabinet post or maintained,” he said.
Mvula observed that ministers do not only serve the President, but rather the general good of the public.
In a separate interview, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) vice-chairperson Gift Trapence, expressed worry on the appointment, saying it needs to be reversed.
“The assets declaration law is very clear in its provision that non-declaration is clear abrogation of the same laws. Our position is that the President is violating this law. He should rescind it forthwith, failing which we will make the minister and the President accountable. We will not tolerate this as citizens of this country,” said Trapence.
Last month, Tukula confirmed that his office wrote Mutharika to dismiss Chiumia from Cabinet for her failure to declare her assets since a deadline passed in June 2017.
Earlier, political and governance analyst Henry Chingaipe, casted doubts on whether the President might fire Chiumia, saying: “I do not think the president will act because there is a culture of Executive impunity and arrogance. It’s not just this group, but even the previous ones, there has been low compliance in the Executive to act on recommendations.”