Friday, January 21, 2022
Leaders of various religious groups in Malawi through their umbrella organization, the Public Affairs Committee (PAC), have given President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera three months to reshuffle his Cabinet. [The Chairperson of PAC Executive Committee, Mons. Patrick Thawale, during their Tuesday, January 18 meeting with President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera. Credit: Courtesy Photo. Text: ACI Africa. (See attachments)]

In a speech that was delivered by the Chairperson of PAC Executive Committee, Mons. Patrick Thawale, during their Tuesday, January 18 meeting with President Chakwera, the leaders urged the Malawian Head of State to appoint a new Cabinet, noting that the current one seemed to be “a spectator in their leadership style.”

Highlighting some of the positions they felt needed change in the Cabinet, the faith leaders who include representatives of Catholic Bishops said, “Your Excellency, reshuffle the Cabinet and appoint a competent Secretary to the President and Cabinet. Consider changes in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well, for there seems to be reputational challenges.”

In the speech that was given by Mons. Thawale who previously served as Diocesan Administrator of Malawi’s Catholic Archdiocese of Lilongwe, the religious leaders added, “In fact, the current Cabinet seems to be a spectator in their leadership style.”

The PAC members made reference to calls made earlier for the President to come up with a new Cabinet, saying, “We kindly call upon Your Excellency to consider reshuffling the Cabinet within 3 months. The public's patience is running thin.”

President Chakwera has been faulted for failing to deliver on his promises to reshuffle his Cabinet that has been said to be ineffective, and to fill vacant positions in the country’s top governing body. In the speech obtained by ACI Africa on Wednesday, January 19, the faith leaders in Malawi lauded the Chakwera administration for its openness to dialogue and called for the implementation of what had already been agreed upon in the President’s engagement with the people.

“Your Excellency, although …we appreciated your open-door policy to dialogue with us and others, it should not be interpreted that PAC will continue holding dialogue without seeing actions being taken,” the religious leaders say. They add, “During the previous interface meeting Cabinet reshuffle was deliberated on. We noted that Your Excellency you pledged to reshuffle the Cabinet by the end of Year 2020. The pledge was religiously believed that an action in this regard would be affected. Despite our interface meeting with you, to date nothing has happened. This continues to erode trust that was bestowed upon you.”

According to the faith leaders, a good number of Malawi’s Cabinet officials “lack gravitas and influence”. The leaders call for appointment of influential people in the private sector to occupy seats in the Cabinet, saying, “This is the time those occupying rightful roles in the economic arena should have been in the forefront of translating and explaining measures to mitigate economic hardship. Their silence is loud enough.”

In addition to their renewed call for the Cabinet reshuffle, the PAC members highlighted Malawi’s economic hardships, which they said need to be mitigated, corruption as well as nepotism, which they said were manifest starting with the Presidency. On Malawi’s economic hardships, the religious leaders pointed out that the government lacked direction on mitigating the effects of COVID-19 pandemic that they said had exacerbated the poverty levels in the country.

“With due respect to explanations on the impact of COVID-19 pandemic and its implications on the economy Your Excellency, the public view seems to suggest that the administration lacks direction on the mitigation of economic hardship,” the religious leaders said. “We believe that in this area relevant Ministries that have a bearing on economic development ought to be aggressive in communicating to the public. It seems they have distanced themselves from their rightful role,” they said, and added. “Your Excellency may consider to package properly the information on economy to be imparted to the public, and your Cabinet Ministers ought to be in the forefront to defend and justify the economic status.”

The faith leaders called out President Chakwera for the reported hiring of his relatives in government, noting that the move had “diluted” the President’s moral standing. “It appears to us that the public's concerns on nepotism continue to grow with reports that your daughter reported for duties at the Embassy in the UK. Coupled with perceptions that your son in-law doubles as Personal Assistant as well as Director of Communications compounds the situation,” the religious leaders noted. They added, in reference to the President’s daughter and son-in-law, “Even if these officials have competences, this is Malawi Your Excellency; the public will never trust you especially that those participating in this allegedly nepotism are in the Office of the Presidency. Your moral standing becomes diluted.”

The Malawian President was also cautioned against the use of selective justice in handling corruption charges in his Cabinet, adding that some Cabinet Ministers who were found in corruption scandals in the country had been treated with a slap on the wrist while others had been heavily reprimanded. The faith leaders urged President Chakwera to act fast to redeem his image as Head of State, saying, “The trust on Your Excellence has been eroded so fast as a result of your approach to decision making.”

They also expressed their optimism in the Malawian President, saying that he was exceptional in the way in which he encouraged openness and dialogue. “Your Excellency, you are unique in the sense that you are the first leader in this position that requested us that we should be frank and honest with you in our dialogue exercise,” the PAC members said, and added, “Such a virtue is not common among leaders.”
[Agnes Aineah – ACI Africa]