April 15 2021
For many years, news about Cabinet would always first be heard on Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), especially from News at 6. A story is told how one Cabinet minister was told that he was dropped from Kamuzu Banda’s Cabinet while he was busy conducting government business at a function.
When he went out, it is said, he found that the flag on his official Mercedes Benz had been removed. The driver neither saluted nor opened the door for him. It is even said that he was a very lucky chap because under normal circumstances, the official vehicle must have been withdrawn there and then and he should have hitch-hiked to his crib.
The story shows how unprecedented Cabinet reshuffles are. It came as a surprise, then, that when President Lazarus Chakwera announced his maiden Cabinet. In July last year, he said the ministers would be assessed in five months and that non-performers would be dropped. We all know the President is under no obligation to state when he would reset his Cabinet.
However, we are worried because the President keeps on shifting goal posts about when he would make the changes. Why he made the announcement initially is not clear but one can’t doubt the fact that he may have tried to be seen to be a different kind of leader.
Not living by his word calls for worry. That is simply because a man who does not live by his word is difficult to trust.
The length at which Chakwera is taking to fulfill his promises has led to speculation that there have been some misunderstanding between him and his vice Saulos Chilima. That may not be unfounded, since Chakwera himself said that the Cabinet would be announced since Chilima was reviewing it.
Which is why the question of how solid is the Tonse Alliance comes to mind. It was in April last year that the Tonse Alliance was launched and one year down the line, what the two parties really agreed on sharing is still under wraps.
Again, the alliance is under no obligation to reveal their power sharing deal, but this has led to the alliance to be its own enemy. Where Chakwera is in the wrong, UTM Party pundits think it could have been better if Chilima was at the helm. Chakwera’s indecisiveness may root from this very fact, but look who is suffering.
While we are at it, the audit report on the abuse of the Covid 19 funds was released. Chakwera said some time in February that he would see to it that every tambala is followed and those in error should be brought to book.
The wish is the President will live by his word and that there will be no sacred cow on this one. He has served his neck from the civil society which threatened to go on the streets if the report were not released.
And, by the way, who is really advising the President on legal matters? On paper, it should be the Attorney General Chikosa Silungwe but apparently, it seems the President is seeking counsel from elsewhere.
Way back, leaked communication from Silungwe’s office showed he advised the President not to fire Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) commissioners Linda Kunje and Jean Mathanga, but this week Chakwera fired the two.
Advice is given for free. Whether one takes it or leaves it is another issue. But, in this case it appears the President and the AG are going in different directions.
Communicating to MEC, Silungwe said the commission was incapacitated, citing Section 75 (1) of the Constitution. MEC has since suspended its engagements with political parties on the re-demarcation of constituency boundaries.
This will be a hard legal nut to crack. At the moment, some argue that the commission can still carry on some administrative functions while others argue the commission can proceed as long as they form a quorum.
It will be a harder nut to crack if Kunje and Mathanga choose to challenge their firing in the courts. Will the AG be in a good position to represent government? Our Republican circus continues.