On June 30, President Lazarus Chakwera dissolved boards of 67 parastatals and later appointed board members for only the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) and Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA).
But as Malawians were eagerly waiting for Chakwera, who was ushered into office through the court-ordered June 23 fresh presidential election, to appoint new members for the other boards, their patience wore thin as the President took forever to fulfill their wish.
But with further delays, stakeholders still kept pushing Chakwera, who partnered UTM president Saulos Chilima—now the country’s Vice-President—on the ballot, to make the appointments.
For instance, the National Anti-Corruption Alliance (Naca) said further delays would frustrate parastatal operations and create room for corruption.
Naca chairperson Moses Mkandawire said an earlier appointment of the parastatal boards would support government’s push for public sector reforms.
But as Chakwera made the new board appointments on September 23—in a statement signed by Secretary to the President Zanga-Zanga Chikhosi—criticisms were drawn from numerous stakeholders, mainly on the President’s failure to fulfil the Gender Equality Act (GEA) of 2013 on appointment of people into various boards.
Gender advocates, including Malawi Law Society (MLS) and other law experts, said based on the GEA, no sex or gender can be less than 40 percent in any appointment.
Parastatals that do not fulfil the female representation quota include Malawi Accountants Board, Roads Fund Administration, Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi, Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority, Roads Authority, Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation and Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation.
As the debacle on board appointments continued, with other appointees turning down positions, Minister of Information Gospel Kazako told our sister paper The Nation in September that government was not going to reconstitute non-compliant boards, but insisted that the commitment for gender equality and women empowerment remained strong.
Appalled by the scenario, the Women Manifesto Movement, comprising women empowerment civil society organisations held countrywide demonstrations on October 9, calling on Chakwera to treat the matter with the urgency it deserves.
During the protests, the women said they were angered that Chakwera, who promised to change the system during his campaign in the run up to the June 23 fresh presidential election, had failed to live by his word.
At the time, one of the organisers of the protests, Barbra Banda, who is also Non-Governmental Organisations-Gender Coordination Network (NGO-GCN) chairperson, said they took to the streets to raise awareness that there are enough qualified women in the country to be appointed into various State institutions.
Officials in the Office of President and Cabinet (OPC) and the movement’s leader were later engaged in dialogue which resolved the issue.
Among other resolutions, the two parties agreed to develop a directory of women leaders to be regularly updated by the Ministry of Gender.