Once upon a time in this country we had 42 Cabinet ministers. At the height of public protests and discontent five years ago, the former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika reshuffled his cabinet.
It should be noted that in Bingu’s 8-year administration which abruptly ended one lunch hour on April 5, Cabinet reshuffles were an annual event, like Christmas, or maybe Halloween when you consider that some Cabinet members received the scare of their lives on such occasions.
But unlike Halloween or Christmas, a Bingu Cabinet reshuffle would come like a thief in the night–a minister never knew when but he or she knew it would happen.
So in 2011, Bingu made a not-so-surprising move, let’s not forget that at the time, activists were not kind to the man at New State House.
Despite his temperaments, banging tables and lectures—as people were being butchered—he eventually capitulated on September 6 and a new lean Cabinet was announced. Bingu had trimmed his Cabinet from a humongous 42 to a ‘sizable’ 32.
Malawians, being the unsatisfied lot that we are, were still not happy. For one reason or another, Bingu maintained his brother Peter and wife Callista in the new Cabinet but abolished ministries which just created redundant principal secretaries and directors—who were earning big money and collecting hundreds of litres of fuel for just showing up to work.
The 2011 Cabinet purge affected ministers such as Eta Banda (Foreign Affairs) and her deputy Steven Kamwendo, Ken Kandodo and his deputy Frazer Nihorya at Ministry of Finance, among other casualties, and people did not shed a tear.
Fast forward to 2016, Bingu’s younger brother has the unenviable job of maintaining a Cabinet of 20, as he promised when elected to the office.
But unlike Bingu, he just does not have the courage to dust himself off the red clay messing up his nice suit. The Midnight Six, as they became famously known that fateful April 5 evening, remain blight until this day.
It is in APM’s Cabinet where no person needs proof that cronyism is very much alive and practiced with wild abandon. One just needs to take a courtroom picture of APM appearing with the Midnight Six who were answering charges of treason to know this.
Some might mistake this cronyism for loyalty but it is far from it. It just might be that APM is being held to ransom and is desperately crying to be freed.
That has to be the only reasonable explanation that two years after bringing the same old faces, APM does not have the courage to take his smart suit to the laundry.
Could it really be that these are the best performers he could come up with? George Chaponda? Jean Kalirani?
A careful whisper to APM that it is alright to let go is becoming necessary with each uninspiring Cabinet reshuffle. n