It is not a good day today for Malawi’s newly elected president, Lazarus Chakwera, who in his inauguration speech promised to “clear the rubble of corruption” that had marred Malawi for decades. Hopeful Malawians have been thrown a curveball after Chakwera announced an unexpected chauvinistic, nepotistic and male-dominated cabinet.
Contradicting his 2014 election promise when he said: “my cabinet will not have more than 20 ministers,” Chakwera has announced that his 2020 cabinet will have 31 ministers. “The downside of coalition politics is that everyone want’s to be a cabinet minister,” commented Ali Naka, author at the Pan African Review.
While it seems it was inevitable that forming an alliance of opposition parties would create a large number of government posts, Malawians are concerned that this will hurt the country’s overburdened budget which largely relies on donor funds.
Additionally, Chakwera has been criticised for nepotism as some of the ministers are family members. Minister of Labour, Kenny Kandondo and Minister of Health Khumbize Kandondo are siblings. Sidik Mia and wife Abid Mia have been appointed to the ministries of Transport and Land respectively while their niece Halima Daud has been appointed Deputy Minister of Local Governance. Gospel Kazako is now the Minister of Information while his sister-in-law Agnes Nkusa is Deputy Minister of Agriculture.
“Malawians feel that these cabinet posts were not awarded to some individuals based on merit, but based on what monetary support they gave to the alliance during the campaign,” said activist Mkotama Katenda-Kaunda. Chakwera’s new cabinet also poses conflicts of interests for Minister of Mines Rashid Gaffar who owns mines and the health minister who owns pharmacies across the country.
Civil rights organisations have also expressed their concerns for a cabinet that is underrepresented by women. Of the 31 appointees, only 11 are women, 7 of which are deputies in their ministries. Malawians have thus declared that they will be demonstrating against the new cabinet. Perhaps Chakwera never imagined he would have a taste of his own medicine when he said, “when you see another citizen who is not doing their part in the work that is in front of us, accept it as your duty to the country to rebuke them!”