As Malawians continue to digest the 31-member cabinet announced by President Lazarus Chakwera on Wednesday, July 8, 2020, Leader of Opposition Kondwani Nankhumwa has described the new cabinet as "betrayal of people's trust" in the new administration.
Speaking in a telephone interview with Nyasa Times from Blantyre, Nankhumwa said President Chakwera had failed in the 'Tonse Philosophy' by appointing cronies and family members and favouring people from central region at the expense of national unity and merit.
"It is an appeasement cabinet. Instead of doing things 'unusual' as he promised during his inaugural address on 6th July, 2020, he is doing things 'as usual'. This is probably the worst cabinet that Malawians have ever seen. It is simply not representative," said Nankhumwa.
The soft-spoken politician, who served as Leader of Government in Parliament in the previous DPP administration, said President Chakwera has placed selfish interests of the MCP and its major partner UTM of Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima ahead of the interests of the people Malawi.
"I am sorry to say that President Chakwera has chosen to please his loyalists in MCP and a few others from UTM over the future of the country. It is completely unacceptable for the President to choose members from same families, including a couple, as cabinet ministers when he promised a collective approach to governance.
"Cabinet is a national cake, which must be seen to be shared equally. As opposition, we expected President Chakwera to appoint a cabinet that would reflect his pledge to re-unite Malawians against a backdrop of recent serious tribal, ethnic and regional divisions. The reaction of people out here is that of disappointment and consternation," said Nankhumwa, who is also opposition DPP's Vice President for the South.
The Leader of Opposition also observed "a blatant misplacement of talent" in the composition of the new cabinet. He said for example, as the world grapples with the Coronavirus global pandemic, the President ought to have appointed a medical expert as Health minister to co-ordinate government efforts in managing this health crisis.
Nankhumwa also observed that some traditional ministries have either been omitted inadvertently or purposely scrapped off such as Water and Irrigation, Gender and Women Empowerment, Disability and the Elderly, Disaster Preparedness and Response.
"Inclusion of these as stand-alone ministries would have made more sense than disaggregating Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Forestry and Natural Resources, Ministry of Mining and Energy," said Nankhumwa.
In conclusion, Nankhumwa said he was well aware that President Chakwera has the prerogative to appoint cabinet ministers. However, the duty of opposition will be to monitor the performance of the new cabinet, individually and collectively, against specific outcomes.
"Where we notice underperformance, abuse of office and other unbecoming conduct, we will not sit back and watch in silence but publicly criticize such under performance and misconduct.
"The DPP administration under President Professor Arthur Mutharika made a lot of noticeable strides in social and economic development of the country and improving people's lives. We will therefore draw from that experience to provide checks and balances to the new government to ensure that only representative policies are implemented for the benefit of all Malawians regardless of region, tribe, creed or colour," he said.
Law expert Danwood Chirwa also observed that "questionable characters" have been handed posts and that "there's is evidence of pay for play", and some new dubious ministries have been created while key ones such as for gender and children affairs have been omitted.
"The electorate voted for change, but this new cabinet lacks novelty. It is definitely uninspiring, if not disappointing," said Chirwa.
He said he first cabinet was meant to send a clear message to all and sundry that patronage, corruption and looting will end, that those who have looted before will be investigated and prosecuted, and that new, clean and competent people will lead Malawi.
But said the new cabinet fails to meet the cut.
In a statement issued prior to the appointments, Chakwera said he and vice-president Saulos Chilima had a tough time to come up with the Cabinet as there were many capable individuals who could not all be taken on board.
The President then disclosed that others will be given other responsibilities as "the work of draining the swamp, clearing the rubble, overhauling the rotten systems of the state and building new systems cannot be the preserve of Cabinet ministers alone".