Nothing to write home about

After five years’ experience of heading the government, expectations were high that the Cabinet list to come out of Kamuzu Palace would be fresh, exciting and meritorious.

It was anticipated that the new cabinet would consider the sensitivities that prevail in such appointments and cannot be ignored, unfortunately.

A Cabinet that does not consider the 60-40 gender law, region of origin of new cabinet members and their competencies is a Cabinet that should be thrown in the trash.

President Peter Mutharika this week released a Cabinet that fell short of addressing these and more.

It is a Cabinet of lost opportunities, one that has failed to consolidate the gains of the past five years and instead treated the next five years as business as usual.

The bag from which Mutharika fished out these names must have been a mixture of newcomers deserving a token of gratitude—for something that only he and those close to him know—but also a few names in there to avoid being accused of betraying his original base.

Apart from winning as MPs in districts which went to the opposition, the Cabinet could have done without newcomers like Esther Majaza from Mchinji and Martha Mzomera Ngwira, whose claim to fame was taking over the constituency from her embattled husband.

Even with Majaza, Ngwira, Mary Navicha, Martha Lunji and Grace Kwelepeta, Mutharika has once again failed to emulate his counterparts on the continent to appoint a Cabinet that acknowledges the role of women in high levels of decision making.

The new president of South Africa has just made strides in that direction by appointing women to 50 percent of the cabinet positions, Rwanda has done it and so has Ethiopia to the shock of many.

On a day that Malawi made history to elect a female Speaker of Parliament and one deputy, it was anticipated that Mutharika would borrow a leaf and follow suit.

But the announcement of the cabinet successfully deflated the excitement of Malawians that for the first time, Parliament has elected a female Speaker of Parliament in Catherine Gotani Hara.

Strangely, or perhaps not, Mutharika has been the one not to adhere to the Gender Equality Act that he has praised on several occasions for its progressive provisions.

This cabinet might be a signal or more slaps in the face of gender and women empowerment activists in the years to come, they have more work on their hands to convince a sitting head of state to respect the law.

As if failing to adhere to the gender law appointing people without a clear record or meritorious activity was not enough, the list of advisors really baffles the mind.

The list of advisors says one thing: Not fit for a Cabinet but deserving a reward all the same.

If the aim of appointing advisors was to further bloat the wage bill then it is a big success. But the point of denying Goodall Gondwe a chance to retire and raise grandchildren in peace is unfair.

The new Minister of Finance Joseph Mwanamvekha must not have the trust of the president if Mutharika still requires the counsel of Gondwe on issues of the economy because this sounds like the new minister will be an understudy of the old man.

It is, however, time that President Mutharika realised that you do not reward poor performers, if your favourite person lost the parliamentary election, no appointment as advisor of something or other will change that.

Uladi Mussa, Grezelder Jeffrey and Chris Daza lost the election in the seats where they contested, as did countless others probably more loyal to the ruling party.

It remains to be seen what unique approach this particular Cabinet will take as the DPP moves towards letting go of Mutharika ahead of 2024.

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