Hon Folks, when APM said at his inauguration that he was taking time to choose a Cabinet of go-getters which would also reflect gender and regional distribution, I was excited. But I went dumb on Wednesday when the actual Cabinet list was announced.
Without prejudicing the merit aspect which may require use of a scorecard to measure objectively, the announced 24-member new Cabinet remains South-heavy and male dominated.
Thank God, I got the news on Wednesday when Parliament had already kindled the feel-good factor by giving Malawi a breath of fresh air. For the first time, we have a female Speaker in the name of Catherine Gotani-Hara, MP for Mzimba North East.
She’s flanked by member for Kasungu East Madalitso Kazombo (Independent) as First Deputy Speaker and member for Mangochi Mkungulu Aisha Adams (UDF) as Second Deputy Speaker-two women in the office of the Speaker!
It’s a choice that’s as progressive as it upholds as sacrosanct Parliament’s duty to provide the other two arms of the State—Executive and Judiciary—with checks and balances. I shudder to imagine what would’ve become of our already limping democracy had the governing DPP provided the Speaker besides heading the Executive!
Go, Madam Speaker Gotani-Hara, go! I hear we can now be counted together with Rwanda, South Africa and Tanzania as progressive AU member States with women at the helm of their supreme legislative bodies. It feels so good!
Back to the Cabinet: it lacks the wow factor that APM hinted on as he celebrated his controversial victory last week. Thirteen of the 18 Ministers (over 72 percent) and three of the six deputy ministers (50 percent) are from DPP’s Southern Region stronghold.
Whether by design or not, APM picked virtually the entire Cabinet from MPs. Consequently women who are grossly under-represented in Parliament are also equally grossly under-represented in the Cabinet where only five of them—two ministers and three deputy ministers—representing a mere 20.8 percent—will be sitting amid a crowd of male folks.
In the previous Cabinet, APM roped in people from outside Parliament. Former Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu is an example that quickly comes to mind. Suffice it to say the fact that he was a non-MP made him no less loyal to APM and DPP.
Had APM emancipated himself from the old type of thinking that ministerial portfolios should go to people who bring in Parliamentary seats to the governing party, he would have had a wide hunting ground for the right people to make his Cabinet score highly on gender and regional balance.
As it is we have seriously speaking a 20 percent representation in the highest political boardroom for women who make up more than 52 percent of the population and also more than 52 percent of the voters. How fair is that?
What in the name of democracy in this 21st Century can really justify this continued marginalisation of a demographic group which enjoys clear numerical supremacy in the country? Who speaks for the women and their children?
I submit that if men who have been dominating in politics since independence in 1964 were in any way more creative, more efficient and generally better performers than women, our country wouldn’t have been so heavily corrupt and trapped in a web of abject poverty for 55 years now.
Mr. President, share the national cake with our Mums, they too get hungry.
As for regional distribution, without fear of contraction I say that since the advent of multiparty democracy in 1994, I’ve never felt the tremor of disunity as much as I do now.
True, the Opposition has issues with how MEC conducted the electoral processes, especially the counting and tallying of votes and there’s no denying the simmering anger out there. The massive turnout in all the cities on Thursday of angry Malawians calling for MEC Chairperson Jane Ansah to go, left no doubt in my mind that as a nation we are heading the wrong direction.
Whether there’s indeed a case for Ansah to answer or not is one thing but what is becoming clear is that trust in her impartiality is so low that it would be hard for her to preside over future elections.
But as a Southerner, I have never felt more insecure in the Centre and North. Without drumming up telltale signs of a nation being torn apart, I’d like to say a political system where a minority government exercises sovereign authority in a winner-takes-all manner is the reason peace and unity are being threatened.
Simply put, no group of Malawians fought colonialism and dictatorship so they could be colonised by another group under the multiparty political dispensation. Share power and the national cake equitably, Mr. President!