It appears Malawians like to make conclusions out of selective information on important subjects that ought to be thought out carefully. This is the case on nepotism.
Some people say Northerners are nepotistic as if all Malawians from the North qualify for that label. Others want us to believe that President Peter Mutharika is nepotistic. But these conclusions are often based on incomplete analyses.
Recently, Nyasa Times blasted Peter Mutharika, branding his reign as “the most nepotistic in Malawi’s history.” Unfortunately, the argument was a complete distortion of the sermon Archbishop Thomas Msusa gave at the consecration of Bishop of Mzuzu Diocese John Ryan.
Msusa rightly said nepotism is not good for national development and someone hastily concluded: “Therefore, President Mutharika is nepotistic.” This is a serious accusation and it cannot go unquestioned.
President Mutharika is a political leader who has gone every mile to avoid nepotism. He has attempted to distribute key appointments across the regions and has at times gone against political norms to achieve equity.
If Mutharika was nepotistic, he would not pick Saulos Chilima, a Ngoni non-politician from Ntcheu, as Vice-President. Mutharika could as well have picked a fellow Lhomwe.
Government has three arms: Executive, Judiciary and Legislature. Yet to some people, Mutharika still runs a nepotistic government though the three branches are headed by Malawians from different ethnic backgrounds.
No one can say we have a Lhomwe Government when both the Legislature and the Judiciary are headed by northerners.
Richard Msowoya is Speaker of Parliament. Although the Speaker was not appointed by Mutharika, the President was fully aware that it was not his ethnic blood running the second branch of Government when he appointed Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda, SC to head Judiciary. There are Lhomwe judges that Mutharika could have picked.
The balance of powers in the Executive defies the nepotism theory. Some powerful ministries are headed by able Malawians based on their competence rather than blood lines.
The Ministry of Justice, one of the top-most ministries, is headed by Samuel Tembenu, a Chewa from Salima.
The Ministry of Finance is not headed by a Lhomwe, but Goodall Gondwe from Mzimba in the North. Mutharika appointed Ronald Mangani, a Yao from the Eastern Region, to the powerful position of Secretary to the Treasury.
Let us also say it was nepotism for Mutharika to appoint Lucas Kondowe, who comes from Mzimba, to head the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB). This is one of the few key positions Mutharika has appointed in the last two years.
It is important to appreciate that Mutharika left intact most of the appointments made by Joyce Banda to run to the end of their contracts.
Among the few appointments Mutharika has made is that of the Accountant General William Matambo who comes from the Centre. Can we say this appointment was also nepotistic?
One recent appointment Mutharika has made is that of deputy chief secretary Lloyd Muhara, who was a judge until his appointment. Was this a wrong appointment just because Muhara is a Lhomwe?
The fact is that it would be completely naïve to think that Mutharika should not appoint qualified Lhomwe people just because they are Lhomwes. What matters is the balance of power.
The fact is that nobody says anything when Mutharika appoints people from any other part of Malawi. That one is never a crime. But it becomes an issue when the President appoints from the Lhomwe belt in spite of the fact that the President is also appointing people from other regions.
The case of Muhara is even more fascinating because the actual post of Chief Secretary to Government is not in the hands of a Lhomwe. Muhara is there to deputise George Mkondiwa. The very Chief Secretary to Government and head of civil servats is not a Lhomwe.
Another significant appointment Mutharika has made is that of the vice-chancellor of Malawi University of Science and Technology (Must). He appointed Professor Address Malata who is a Chewa from Nkhoma in Lilongwe. She is the first female vice-chancellor and she leads Malawi’s academic beacon. Yet we still want to accuse Mutharika of practising nepotism.
When Professor Address Malata was appointed, some of us were expecting to see commendations being heaped on the President. I expected at least women groups to openly commend and encourage the President.
But I have also noted that we have lately gone into a media tradition of looking for obvious critics to assess every appointment decision the President makes.
When it is a good decision and that we find no fault, we stay quiet.
The moment we spot a weak point, we all go up in arms against the President. n