President Peter Mutharika yesterday reshuffled his Cabinet, sacking one senior minister, moving around several others and drafted in one new face as deputy minister, but maintained a lean team of 20.
In the Cabinet reshuffle announced by the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) through its Chief Secretary George Mkondiwa, Thyolo South-West member of Parliament (MP) Allan Chiyembekeza, who served as Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, was the only casualty who faced the chop.
The new face in the Cabinet is Lilongwe City West Progressive Party-DPP) who has been appointed Deputy Minister of Defence replacing Malison Ndau who has since been promoted to Minister of Transport and Public Works.
Ndau has replaced Francis Kasaila, the DPP spokesperson, who has moved to Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation where he has replaced George Chaponda now Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development.
Outspoken Mulanje West MP Patricia Kaliati has been moved from Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare to Ministry of Information and Civic Education for the third time since she started serving in Cabinet during the second term of Bakili Muluzi and United Democratic Front (UDF) administration from 1999 to 2004.
Kaliati has taken over from Jappie Mhango who has now filled into the shoes of Jean Kalilani as Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security. On the other hand, Kalilani has gone to the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare.
Mutharika has maintained his trust in eight Cabinet ministers who have not been affected, notably, Goodall Gondwe (Finance, Economic Planning and Development), Henry Mussa (Labour, Youth and Manpower Development) and Kondwani Nankhumwa (Local Government and Rural Development).
Others who have stayed put are Atupele Muluzi (Lands, Housing and Urban Development), Joseph Mwanamvekha (Industry, Trade and Tourism), Bright Msaka (Natural Resources, Energy and Mining), Samuel Tembenu (Justice and Constitutional Affairs), Emmanuel Fabiano (Education, Science and Technology), Grace Chiumia (Sports and Culture) and Peter Kumpalume (Health). Deputy Minister of Education, Science and Technology Vincent Ghambi has also retained his portfolio.
Masi last evening reserved his comment, saying he was yet to be communicated to by the appointing authority while Chiyembekeza could not be reached on his mobile phone.
Political and social commentators last evening observed that despite reorganising his team, Mutharika has maintained his “inner circle” and DPP big wigs in strategic positions.
But on his part, political scientist Boniface Dulani noted that the appointment is a departure from Mutharika’s earlier commitment to match expertise with ministerial appointments.
He said: “Now we have lawyers heading the Agriculture Ministry and engineers heading Foreign Affairs to give but two examples where expertise is mismatched.”
Mutharika has also maintained three women in the Cabinet—Kaliati, Kalilani and Chiumia—a far cry from the 50:50 female representation, a development Dulani described as a missed opportunity.
This is Mutharika’s third reshuffle since taking over power after his triumph in the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections. The second was in August last year when he fired Paul Chibingu and Trasizio Gowelo as ministers of Lands, Housing and Urban Development and Local Government and Rural Development respectively.
His first Cabinet reshuffle was done 11 months after becoming President in which he swapped three Cabinet ministers.
In recent times, Mutharika has repeatedly said he would fire any minister who is corrupt or underperforms.
But when asked whether Chiyembekeza’s firing meant the President was walking his talk, Mkondiwa declined to comment. n