- Says it will be in place by June 21
- Extends olive branch, pokes fun at rivals
President Peter Mutharika yesterday hinted at his new Cabinet, the first in his second five-year term of office, saying it will be lean and in place by June 21.
In his speech during a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) victory rally at Njamba Freedom Park in Blantyre, the President, sworn in on May 28 and inaugurated on May 31 following his declared victory in the May 21 Tripartite Elections, said he is currently doing some background checks on the prospective appointees.
While indicating that he will maintain a 20-member lean Cabinet, including the President and Vice-President, Mutharika said the new crop of Cabinet ministers “will be all-inclusive and developmental focused”.
He said: “Now, let me say something on the Cabinet. A new Cabinet will be in place by the time I will be opening Parliament on June 21.
“So, for now, I am doing some background checks on who should be in my Cabinet. Right now, you just have to be patient.”
Mutharika said that above all, there is need for the country to remain united and move on in the spirit of development, emphasising he will carry on with his developmental agenda.
The President is scheduled to open a new session of Parliament with a delivery of a State of the Nation Address (Sona) on June 21.
Newly-elected members of Parliament (MPs) are from today to June 14 set to undergo an orientation workshop at Bingu International Convention Centre, according to Clerk of Parliament Fiona Kalemba.
Parliament has also set June 17 and 18 as dates for swearing in of the 2019-2024 cohort of legislators. The ceremony will be followed by the election of the House’s Speaker, First Deputy Speaker and Second Deputy Speaker by the MPs.
Reacting to Mutharika’s hint at the possible composition of his new Cabinet, governance commentator Makhumbo Munthali said the assurance was welcome, but said the President should put into perspective some factors in his selection.
“Perhaps what will be crucial is for him is to ensure that he puts up a Cabinet that takes into consideration the Gender Equality Act of 60-40 percent ratio in as far as male and female representation is concerned and at least 30 percent youth representation as well as ensuring there is a regional balance,” he said.
Further, Munthali said the President should also not restrict his choice of Cabinet ministers to MPs or politicians, but should extend his search to the private sector or civil society who may share his developmental agenda.
During the rally, a visibly charged Mutharika extended an olive branch to all opposition political parties to work with him in the spirit of developing the country. He said it is time to bury the hatchet and focus on development.
Ironically, while extending the olive branch, the President poked fun at some of his political opponents, notably Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM Party which are contesting the election results in court.
In an apparent reference to pre-election assertions by UTM Party president Saulos Chilima, who served as his second-in-command between May 2014 and May 2019 before the duo fell out, that the election cannot be stolen, Mutharika said: “Aja amati technology ndikudya kwathu ife a DPP ndiife mafana ayamba kulira [Those who bragged that they were tech-savvy and that we in DPP cannot match them have started crying].”
The President, who seemed to be in high spirits, also subtly poked fun at MCP first vice-president Muhammad Sidik Mia, saying he is not the Lower Shire political giant he was portrayed to be.
He likened himself to a lion and “the so-called Lower Shire giant” to a cat that ran away from him.
In an earlier interview after the President called for unity and appealed to politicians across the divide to work together, University of Livingstonia-based political commentator George Phiri said inclusive leadership is best demonstrated when put into practice.
On his part, governance commentator Martin Chiphwanya advised Mutharika to propagate a message of unity and avoid uttering provocative statements that have potential to fuel tension.
Speaking earlier at the rally, DPP vice-president for the Southern Region Kondwani Nankhumwa urged the party to remain united and focus on consolidating for the 2024 Tripartite Elections.
He said: “As we celebrate, let us not forget that another election is coming. Those who cannot take up their numerous roles may leave because if we are to do well in 2024, there will be need for collective efforts.”
The rally was the first since Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) on May 27 declared Mutharika winner of the presidential race with 1 940 709, votes representing 38.57 percent followed by MCP’s Lazarus Chakwera with 1 781 740 votes, representing 35.41 per cent while Chilima finished third and ahead of four other presidential hopefuls with 1 018 369 votes, representing 20.24 percent.
Present at the rally was the country’s new Vice-President Everton Chimulirenji, the party’s vice-president for the North Goodall Gondwe, vice-president for the Central Region Uladi Mussa, vice-president for the Eastern Bright Msaka, secretary general Grezelder Jeffrey and members of DPP national governing council.