Malawi’s President Joyce Banda hires new cabinet, sacks two key ministers

No specific charges have so far been levelled against the two but Lipenga, a linguist and former newspaper editor, is being accused of presiding over a system gone rogue.

Lipenga has been replaced by Maxwell Mkwezalamba, an international civil servant who has just ended his tour of duty a commissioner at the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, where he was referred to as ‘Africa’s Finance Minister’. Former Director of Public Prosecutions Fahad Assani, who famously said corruption is endemic in Malawi with 30 per cent of government budget being lost through fraud and corruption annually, replaces Kasambara as Justice Minister.

Also sacked are Labour Minister Eunice Makangala, who is at the centre of the botched labour export to South Korea, and Reen Kachere, who was Minister of the Elderly and People with Disabilities. The new Labour Minister is Grace Maseko who was Minister of Local Government in the previous cabinet.

Last week’s unprecedented dissolution of the cabinet came in the wake of revelations of high level corruption and plunder of public money that are being exposed almost on a daily basis in the wake of the shooting three weeks ago of Budget Director Paul Mphwiyo.

Mphwiyo was shot on September 13 as he drove into his residence in the upmarket Area 43 suburb of the capital, Lilongwe. Immediately after the shooting President Banda said the 37-year-old technocrat was targeted for his crusade of cleaning up corruption in government.

The shooting of Mphwiyo kicked open a can of worms with civil servants being found with million of kwacha under their beds or in their car trunks almost on a daily basis. They avoid banks to avoid questions as to where they get such huge amounts of money. So far at least ten people have been arrested after being caught with the unexplained loot.

The civil servants reportedly connive with politicians and businessmen to fleece government of funds in payment for bogus services to government.

In the wake of the reports of government looting, Western donor nations and agencies, including the European Union and the governments of Great Britain, Japan, the US, Norway and Germany, have called for a forensic audit in the Malawi government systems. According to EU leader of delegation to Malawi Alexander Baum, the EU was reviewing the disbursement of €29 million in budgetary support due by December. , . 

Norwegian Minister for International Development Heikki Eidsvoll Holmas also said in a statement Oslo was putting on ice a planned NOK50 million aid package.

President Banda has since vowed to root out corruption in her government.

“I am committed to fighting fraud and corruption and it will be exposed,” she said at a press conference in Blantyre last week. “Nothing will deter me and this government from fighting corruption, fraud and embezzlement. I have noted the efforts by police, the Anti-Corruption Bureau and other government agencies in uncovering and intercepting large amounts of cash in homes, offices and vehicle boots of some individuals in the civil service.”

Banda, who came to power in April last year following the sudden death of President Bingu wa Mutharika, said she inherited a corrupt system and she was determined to overhaul it.

“It is important to note that these revelations (the exposes) are as a result of some of the efforts by my government to stamp out corruption, fraud and embezzlement in the public sector,” she said.

Following Assani’s bold admission that 30 per cent of Malawi’s annual budget is lost through corruption, a number of former top government officials, including ministers, have been arrested and charged with fraud and corruption. Former president Bakili Muluzi, who set up the Anti-Corruption Bureau to fight graft, is himself currently answering several corruption cases in court. 

Over US $100 million was said to have been lost through corruption during the ten years Muluzi was in power.

The Banda administration has also just announced that Mutharika, who died from cardiac arrest complications, dubiously amassed a net wealth of 60 billion Malawi kwacha (about US $174m) during the seven years he has been in power.africaglobalvillage

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