- Aide says new team to be named within 24 hours
Nine months after facing criticism on the composition of his maiden Cabinet, President Lazarus Chakwera is set to hire his second Cabinet within 24 hours amid anxiety and expectations from current members, alliance partners and the public.
Responding to questions during the weekly State House Briefing yesterday, presidential press secretary Brian Banda said the new Cabinet will be announced before the end of this month, which is tomorrow.
He said: “I can independently confirm that in the next two days, President Chakwera will announce his Cabinet.”
This will be Chakwera’s first Cabinet reshuffle since winning the court-sanctioned fresh presidential election held on June 23 2020.
The President faced criticism over his first Cabinet last July with some questioning the inclusion of family members, the gender aspect which fell short on his pledge to have at least 40 percent women representation and geographical spread of the team which showed his native Lilongwe District dominating.
In our analysis of the Cabinet composition in July last year, Chakwera’s Malawi Congress Party (MCP) had 16 members—12 full ministers and four deputies—representing 51.6 percent while UTM Party of Vice-President Saulos Chilima, a major partner in the Tonse Alliance administration, contributed six, notably four ministers and two deputies, representing 19.4 percent.
In terms of regional balance Lilongwe, the President’s home district, contributed about a third of the Cabinet and out of 31 members, the Central Region had at least 20 seats. There was also a general feeling that the Cabinet was not as meritocratic as expected.
In a telephone interview yesterday on the expectations, political scientist Blessings Chinsinga said the new Cabinet provides the President an opportunity to correct what were perceived to be errors.
He said to have a performing Cabinet, the President ought to consider both merit and regional balance, which is necessary for political survival.
The Chancellor College associate professor observed that while it is not possible to include everyone in the Cabinet, the President has another opportunity to solidify unity in the alliance through appointments.
Chinsinga said: “For me, there is need for the President to have a strategic balance between merit and regional or tribal balance. We must understand that the Cabinet is the most visible structure as far as national resource distribution is concerned, so a combination of merit and regional balance would serve him better.”
He also said that while it is claimed that the reshuffle will be based on performance assessment, it would have been beneficial to have the public appreciate the tools used to measure performance.
On its part, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) said it hopes for a lean and merit-based Cabinet that will deliver in the interest of Malawians.
In an interview yesterday, HRDC chairperson Gift Trapence said: “We hope the assessment was fair and objective and that those that will be appointed are those that can make a difference.
“The President must not make the same mistake of having a Cabinet full of family and friends, but those that can deliver. Malawians need a performing Cabinet.”
Chakwera also came under fire, especially from women’s rights groups, for appointing few women into his Cabinet contrary to the Gender Equality Act which demands 60 to 40 representation of either gender.
The President has 12 female ministers, representing 38 percent of the Cabinet. Only four women are full ministers while all eight deputy ministers are women.
During a press conference marking his first 100 days in office, Chakwera promised to remedy the situation which has women groups protesting.
Ngeyi Kanyongolo, associate professor of law at Chancellor College and gender activist, said she expects the President to exceed the expectation of the law and have a Cabinet with 50:50 representation for ministerial positions and not just deputies.
In the new Cabinet, the President shoulders a great task to meet all these expectations. He is also expected to make replacements for two portfolios—Transport and Public Works and Local Government—which fell vacant after their respective ministers Mohammed Sidik Mia and Lingson Belekanyama succumbed to Covid-19 in January this year.