Mutharika fires nine senior ministers in Malawi cabinet reshuffle

Blantyre, Malawi (PANA) - Finance Minister Ken Kandodo and Foreign Affairs Minister Prof. Etta Banda are among nine senior ministers who President Bingu wa Mutharika has fired on Wednesday in Malawi's new reconstituted cabinet.

In a surprise move Mutharika dissolved his entire cabinet three weeks ago. He gave no reasons for the sacking of the entire cabinet but among the demands from civil society leaders who organised the July 20 nationwide demonstration in which 20 people died was a lean cabinet.

The civil society leaders say Malawi's economy was too fragile to support a 42-man cabinet.

In a statement from the Office of the President and Cabinet, Mutharika unveiled a 30-member cabinet that has left out Kandodo and Prof. Banda as well as Health Minister Prof. David Mphande, Economic Planning Minister Abbie Shawa, Irrigation Minister Ritchie Muheya, Local Government and Rural  Development Minister Anna Kachikho, Gender Minister Theresa Mwale and Trade and Industry Minister Eunice Kazembe.

Nine deputy ministers, including popular musician Billy Kaunda, have also been fired.

Mutharika, apart from being President and commander-in-chief of the Malawi defence force and the Malawi police service, took for himself three portfolios of  statutory corporations, civil service administration and national relief and disaster management.

The list does not include his estranged Vice-President  Joyce Banda although constitutionally he has no powers to sack her.

Interestingly First Lady Callista Mutharika appears on the list although she was not assigned any ministerial post. She is listed as national coordinator for maternal, infant, and child health, HIV, nutrition, Malaria and Tuberculosis in the presidency.

Again during the July 20 demonstrations civil society leaders demanded that she be stripped of her seven-figure salary because, according to them, she was merely doing charity work as First Lady.

Former Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe, a former director at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) widely credited for revitalising the Malawi economy during Mutharika's first term, bounces back to cabinet as Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment.

He replaces Grain Malunga, who was roundly criticised for urging Malawians "to just get used to the situation" at the peak of Malawi's fuel crisis.

Also making a come-back is former loquacious Information Minister Patricia Kaliati who replaces Symon Vuwa Kaunda who moves to Youth and Sports.

There some new faces in the cabinet including Dr. Jean Kalilani, a former World Health Organisation (WHO) official. She replaces Prof. Mphande at Health.

But perhaps the most surprise appointment is that of academic-cum-journalist Ken Lipenga as Finance Minister. Dr. Lipenga taught languages and the arts at the University of Malawi before becoming founding Editor-in-Chief of the Nation newspaper group.

Mutharika's younger brother, Prof. Peter Mutharika - whose tenure at the Ministry of Education was dogged by issues of academic freedom that still remain unresolved to date, has been moved to the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

He has the huge task of mending fences with Western donor nations, including Great Britain, the US, Germany as well as the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), who froze aid to Malawi over concerns over economic and political governance.

At the peak of the diplomatic spat, Mutharika expelled British envoy Fergus Cochraine-Dyet over a leaked diplomatic cable to Foreign Secretary William Hague where the Briton called the 77-year-old president becoming "increasingly autocratic and intolerant of criticism".
-0- PANA RT/MA 7Sept2011

07 september 2011 22:25:35

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