President Lazarus Chakwera last night missed his own deadline to announce a new Cabinet, saying he needs more time to review assessment reports submitted by Vice-President Saulos Chilima.
While thanking Malawians for patience on the issue, the President, in a statement released around 8pm, said the submission from the Vice-President was “as substantial as the President’s review is thorough”; hence, the task will take longer.
“Even so, the President is now fully seized of the matter and will release his Cabinet the instant he completes
. and assures the best delivery of service to Malawians,” reads the statement signed by presidential press secretary Brian Banda
Ironically, in a February 19 2021 tweet, the State House posted a picture of the President and the Vice-President with a caption that they were jointly assessing the performance of the Cabinet hired last July.
Banda raised the hype for the Cabinet review on Monday when, in response to a question during the State House Weekly Media Briefing, he told journalists that the President was set to hire his second Cabinet by the end of March 2021.
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.
During the swearing in of his maiden Cabinet last July, the President said each of the ministers had five months to produce results and give Malawians hope that change had come.
However, by end of December, the President did not review the Cabinet as promised.
Reacting to the shift in goalposts on the new Cabinet, political analyst Mustapha Hussein of Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, last evening said the move may create a wrong impression, but added that the President should be given the benefit of the doubt.
He commended the leadership for subjecting the Cabinet to the performance indicators or assessment known to the public for purposes of accountability.
The President faced criticism over his first Cabinet last July with some questioning the inclusion of family members, and his native Lilongwe District dominating posts.
He also came under fire, especially from women’s rights groups, for appointing few women into his Cabinet contrary to the expression of the Gender Equality Act which demand 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 conferencemarking his first 100 days in office, Chakwera promised to remedy the situation which has women groups protesting.
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 in January after their respective holders Mohammed Sidik Mia and Lingson Belekanyama succumbed to Covid-19.