A combative President Peter Mutharika is marching on to show he is in charge—tightening his grip on both the State machinery and party as he braces for his toughest challenge to his legitimacy.
A week after dissolving Cabinet, and hours into firing Malawi Defence Force (MDF)Commander General Vincent Nundwe and his deputy General Clement Namangale, the President on Wednesday shook up the Malawi Police Service (MPS) as well.
But he has not just limited his power flexing to State craft.
Mutharika—showing a ruthless side not seen in his more than five years at the helm of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the presidency—also oversaw the firing of two powerful party leaders and replaced them with former People’s Party (PP) hands who once occupied similar posts under Joyce Banda.
The President has booted out regional governor (North) Kenneth Sanga and replaced him with firebrand politician Christopher Mzomera Ngwira.
Mutharika has also hurled Bintony Kutsaira out of the Central Region governor’s office and picked David Kambalame.
Kutsaira, who was also Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Minister in the recently dissolved Cabinet—finds himself out in the cold twice in one week.
It is a purge that some political analysts say signals that the President wants to show he is in charge.
Political science lecturer at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College Mustapha Hussein said on Wednesday that Mutharika has had no choice, but to make the changes to show that he is in charge and that he is moving in a new aggressive style.
Said Hussein: “It is a way of demonstrating that he is in charge despite calls for the fresh presidential election [to take place]. To him, it is a show of power, of flexing his muscles to show that he is still in charge and that he is the President of the country.”
He also said the President may have exercised his powers within the constitutional framework, or he may have been influenced after analysing the relationship that has been there between him and those he has removed.
DPP spokesperson Nicholas Dausi said there is nothing significant about the changes in the party to warrant debate, as the decisions were in line with the party’s constitution.
On his part, Sanga said he respected the party’s decision, adding that he was not bitter. He said the DPP constitution gives power to the president to make such changes.
“I respect the decision of the party and I remain loyal to the party and our President Professor Peter Mutharika. I will continue to serve the party in whatever way possible. So I am not bitter, it is a relief to me,” said Sanga.
Ngwira said the changes have nothing to do with the fresh presidential election.
“The DPP constitution gives power to the president to make such changes. He thought of making the change as he has done with MDF and also does with the Cabinet. Changes in MDF do not mean something was wrong, but it is the President’s prerogative. So it’s the same thing in the party,” he said. University of Livingstonia (Unilia) political scientist George Phiri said in an interview the changes will have little impact on the party.