Africa

Africa

Mutharika announces a whole new cabinet as opposition get impatient

President Bingu wa Mutharika finally got around to naming a new cabinet after running the country by himself for three weeks. But opposition to his rule continues to grow – and, as if to prove it, the president’s party was wholeheartedly rejected in a crucial by-election. By SIMON ALLISON.

Nearly three weeks after summarily dissolving Malawi’s cabinet in the face of mass protests against his increasingly authoritarian rule, President Bingu wa Mutharika finally announced a new one on Wednesday. This came after a civil society petition to the president on Monday, which told him that his office couldn’t competently handle all the functions of government alone.

The new cabinet is made up largely of old faces, but Mutharika has reduced the number of ministers to 31 – still large by world standards, but nine ministers less than before. The bloated cabinet had been a key concern for anti-government protesters. In addition to the president, there are two other Mutharikas involved. His brother and anointed successor, Peter Mutharika, has been promoted to head the prestigious foreign ministry, while his wife Callista assumes the post of minister of safe motherhood; a laudable cause no doubt, but we doubt it deserves its own ministry.

The announcement of the cabinet may also have been precipitated by the unexpected defeat of the ruling party candidate in a local by-election on Wednesday. The northern district of Rumphi elected a candidate from a minor opposition party in what was widely interpreted as a rejection of Mutharika’s rule, although the handling of the election was described as flawed by the ruling party and one of the major opposition parties. DM



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Photo: REUTERS

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