The Public Affairs Committee (PAC) has asked President Lazarus Chakwera to keep his promise of a lean Cabinet of less than 20 members.
During a closed-door meeting at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe yesterday, the quasi-religious grouping also said they cautioned the President to desist from appointing close relations to avoid compromising on professionalism.
Both PAC executive secretary Robert Phiri and the group’s spokesperson the Reverend Gilford Matonga confirmed the meeting which was a follow-up to the one they had last August, barely a month after Chakwera assumed the Presidency following his triumph in the court-sanctioned fresh presidential election held on June 23 2020.
According to PAC, the lean Cabinet was Chakwera’s promise to PAC prior to the nullified May 21 2019 presidential election; hence, they were simply making a gentle reminder.
In a statement after yesterday’s meeting, PAC said they also asked the President to clear the perception that appointments to various public offices are based on blood relations.
While acknowledging that the first Cabinet size was meant to reach out to all Tonse Alliance partners, PAC said time has come for the President to appoint a lean Cabinet in line with the size of the economy.
Reads the PAC statement to the President: “With humility and matter of emphasis your excellency, let us be honest with you. Failure to honour reshuffling of your Cabinet and appointing your relations in the initial stages was not in sync with voter’s expectations. Voters rated you highly to put your excellency in power.
“You may recall that we came from a background where we condemned the same practices under the previous regime. Even as Tonse Alliance you should have avoided these acts at all costs from the beginning. In many cases, appointment of close relations leads to deliberate disregard of professionalism; for those appointed feel they own the administration.”
In the run-up to the 2019 elections, PAC met presidential candidates and each one of them made commitments.
Chakwera, who was Malawi Congress Party (MCP) torchbearer, made 19 promises which included a lean Cabinet of between 14 and 19 members.
“MCP has reiterated that it will have a lean government, between 14 and 20 ministers. This is in order to save as much government funds as possible. Such a government reduces patronage and politics of appeasement. It greatly helps to reduce presidential powers,” reads part of the 19 promises.
However, upon assuming power as candidate for the nine political-party Tonse Alliance, Chakwera hired a 32-member Cabinet which also fell short of the 40:60 gender representation.
In reaction to critics who faulted the Cabinet composition in July 2020, Chakwera pledged to review it based on performance after six months.
However, the President is yet to revise the Cabinet which has five vacancies following deaths of two ministers and removal of two others as well as the Attorney General.
On the President’s reaction to calls for a lean Cabinet, Matonga said Chakwera told PAC that he made the commitment then as an individual candidate; hence, the size of the Cabinet is based on the alliance. State House director of communication Sean Kampondeni, who is also the President’s executive assistant, speaking to Zodiak Broadcasting Station TV last evening said the President will look into the issues raised by PAC.