Malawi risks a constitutional crisis following President Peter Mutharika’s exclusion of his estranged Vice-President Saulos Chilima from the Cabinet list in a reshuffle that has reduced women representation in the 20-member team from four to three.
The Cabinet list released by the Office of the President and Cabinet and signed by Chief Secretary to the Government Lloyd Muhara shows that Mutharika has fired Anna Kachikho (Lands, Housing and Urban Development) and Clement Mukumbwa (Deputy Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare).
With the two and Chilima out, the President has maintained his election campaign pledge to have a 20-member Cabinet by roping in three new faces, including firebrand Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Southern Region governor Charles Mchacha, who is also Thyolo West legislator, as Deputy Minister of Homeland Security. The other two new faces are Phalombe East member of Parliament (MP) Alex Mailosi as Deputy Minister of Defence and Chitipa South MP Welani Chilenga as Deputy Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining.
But the President’s exclusion of Chilima, who ditched the governing DPP in June this year and declared he will challenge Mutharika in the presidential race in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections, is contradicts Section 92(1) of the Constitution which states: “There shall be a Cabinet consisting of the President, the First Vice-President, the Second Vice-President and such ministers and deputy ministers as may, from time to time, be appointed by the President.”
Reacting to the development, Malawi Law Society (MLS) president Alfred Majamanda last evening said the provision in Section 92(1) of the Constitution makes it mandatory that the Vice-President should be part of the Cabinet.
He said the anomaly following Mutharika’s of Chilima is a threat to constitutionalism, especially when it comes to presiding over Cabinet meetings.
Majamanda was apparently referring to Section 92(3) which provides that Cabinet meetings shall be presided over by the President or, “in the temporary absence of the President”, by the First Vice-President. The Constitution further states that in the “temporary absence” of the President and the First Vice-President, the Second Vice-President shall preside over such meetings.
In constrast, despite falling out with his vice-presidents, notably Cassim Chilumpha between 2004 and 2009 and Joyce Banda from 2009 to 2012, the incumbent President’s elder brother, Bingu wa Mutharika, maintained them on Cabinet lists albeit stripping them of ministerial portifolios and functions.
The new Cabinet is also a far cry from the 50:50 women’s representation campaign as Mutharika has reduced the number of women from four to three or from 20 percent to 15 percent.
In the new Cabinet, the President has moved Nicholas Dausi from Information and Communications Technology, replacing him with Henry Mussa whose Industry, Trade and Tourism portifolio is now filled by Francis Kasaila.
Replacing Kasaila at Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development is Grace Chiumia, formerly of Civic Education, Culture and Community Development now headed by Everton Chimulirenji promoted from Deputy Minister of Defence.
Dausi is now at the helm of the renamed Ministry of Homeland Security that will also incorporate the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma), replacing Cecelia Chazama who was Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security.
The following have retained their portifolios: Goodall Gondwe (Finance, Economic Planning and Development), Kondwani Nankhumwa (Local Government and Rural Development), Atupele Muluzi (Health and Population), Joseph Mwanamvekha (Agriculture, Irrigation and Development), Bright Msaka (Education, Science and Technology), Samuel Tembenu (Justice and Constitutional Affairs), Emmanuel Fabiano (Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation) and Jappie Mhango (Transport and Public Works).
Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Aggrey Masi has also retained his post while Jean Kalilani has filled fired Kachikho’s shoes at Lands, Housing and Urban Development and Chazama has taken up Kalilani’s position at Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare.
The President has also reengaged prominent private practice lawyer Kalekeni Kaphale as Attorney General replacing Charles Mhango who has resigned, according to Muhara. Mhango faced appeals to resign over his active partisan political role in DPP where he is legal adviser.
In February 2014, Mutharika picked Chilima, who worked in the private sector as the first Malawian managing director for Airtel Malawi Limited, as his running mate and the duo ousted then incumbent Joyce Banda and her People’s Party (PP) from Capital Hill.