We don’t know why President Bingu wa Mutharika dissolved his entire cabinet, because he hasn’t bothered to tell anyone. Is he trying to meet the anti-government protestors demands, or is he just tired with maintaining the democratic façade? Either way, he’s missing the point. By SIMON ALLISON.
Dissolving an entire cabinet is an unusual move, especially in the middle of a presidential term. The last African president to try this tactic was Hosni Mubarak and it didn’t work out well for him.
On Friday night Mutharika emulated the former Egyptian dictator, with whom he has a little too much in common as far as Malawi’s opposition is concerned, with a terse announcement on national TV which explained that all ministerial duties would revert to the president’s office.
Opposition figures have been calling for the cabinet to be trimmed for some time, describing it as “bloated”, but 42 cabinet ministers is excessive by any standards. The US, for example, has only 15 ministers, while South Africa gets by on 34. The only cabinet member to surive Mutharika’s purge is vice-president Joyce Banda, who he’s not allowed to fire because her mandate comes from the people (although this hasn’t stopped him trying for the last eight months as he’s made space for his brother to succeed him).
The motivation behind the president’s latest move is unclear. Perhaps he’s trying to take some of the opposition’s suggestions on board by appointing a new, slimline cabinet, as part of the mediation efforts which are being overseen by the United Nations; or perhaps this is the first step in centralising power in his own hands. But ultimately the cabinet’s not the problem; protestors won’t be happy until Mutharika himself is gone, or changes his ways. DM
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