Malawi’s newly-elected President Peter Mutharika on Thursday named half of his 20-member cabinet, nearly a month after the chaotic elections that brought him to office. Mutharika, who two weeks ago tapped former finance minister Goodall Gondwe to resume his position, has brought back several other old faces, including Henry Mussa as labour minister and Jean Kalilani to take care of health. In a pre-dawn announcement, the president picked another former minister, George Chaponda, to man the ministry of foreign affairs and international cooperation. The four once served as ministers in the 2004 and 2009 cabinets of Mutharika’s sibling, Bingu wa Mutharika, who died in office in 2012.
New faces in the cabinet include Francis Kasaira who is taking care of transport and public works, and Kondwani Nankhumwa in information, tourism and civic education. Others are Emmanual Fabiano who was assigned the education, science and technology portfolio, and Allan Chiyembekeza who will be responsible for agriculture and irrigation. Grace Obama Chiumia was given the ministry of youth, sports and culture, while lawyer Samuel Tembenu is the new justice and constitutional affairs minister.
Mutharika had come under growing criticism over the delay in appointing his cabinet. A presidential spokesman, Justice Mponda, told AFP that the rest of the 20-member cabinet will be announced at soon. Mutharika has pledged a slimmer cabinet in a bid to cut costs in the impoverished southern African nation, which depends heavily on donor inflows to keep the agriculture-powered economy afloat. The 78-year-old finance minister Gondwe, a former official at the International Monetary Fund, is credited with helping fuel an economic boom during the early years of Mutharika’s late brother’s leadership.
Gondwe, who was expected to present Malawi`s budget this month, as is traditional, will now do so in September to allow for wider consultation after donors suspended US$ 150 million in aid last year after the looting of state coffers in the so-called Cashgate scandal.