Newly sworn-in President of Malawi, Lazarus Chakwera, has drawn the ire of some Malawians and civil society groups for appointing family members in his Cabinet.
Chakwera announced his 31-member Cabinet on Wednesday after beating former President Peter Mutharika in an election re-run last month.
None of the new Ministers or Deputy Ministers is Chakwera’s relative. However, Transport Minister Mohammed Sidik Mia and Lands Deputy Minister Abida Sidk Mia are husband and wife.
Labour Minister Kenny Edward Kandodo and Health Minister Khumbidze Kandodo Chiponda are brother and sister, while Information Minister Gospel Kazako is the sister-in-law of Agriculture Deputy Minister Agnes Nkusa Nkhoma.
Malawi Human Rights Defenders Coalition, which played a leading role in the push for a re-run after the disputed 2019 elections, expressed concern at the appointment of family members in the Cabinet as well as regionalism.
Speaking to AFP, the Coalition’s national coordinator Luke Tembo said, “We have noted that 70 percent of the Ministers are from the central region and that Lilongwe alone has nine ministers, and we know that the President comes from Lilongwe.”
Writing on Twitter, civil society activist Pemphero Wamwale Mphande added, “To some of us that invested our time, at times risking our lives in our own ways, it was not just about taking Mutharika out but also putting in power leaders that promised a change in systems and habits towards political governance. This cabinet inspires the opposite.
“If positions are shared between families leaving so many who also worked hard, deserved; what are we preaching? That out of 18 million people only the Mias, Kandodos deserve and worked the hardest?”
Mphande was among activists from Citizens for Progressive Action, Network for Social Justice Activists and Young Feminists Network who held a media briefing on Thursday to speak out against Chakwera’s Cabinet appointments.
They accused Chakwera of rewarding his alleged election campaign funders, appointing a bloated Cabinet and breaking a 60/40 percent gender representation law.
Responding to the criticism, Chakwera’s spokesperson Sean Kampondeni said, “President Chakwera will himself address the concerns soon.”
During the campaigns, the 65-year-old Chakwera often criticised Mutharika for nepotism and appointing people from his region. His election has brought hope to much of Malawi’s population, half of which lives below the poverty line.