….dissolve cabinet, appoint 15 only
….you don’t listen, architect of economic chaos
….fire SPC Zamba, she lacks integrity
In a stinging rebuke from fellow clergy, President Lazarus Chakwera was on Tuesday told by the quasi-religious grouping the Public Affairs Committee- that Malawians are fed up with him and it was time to take charge of his responsibility and stop the ongoing chaos that has characterised his leadership.
PAC has also asked Chakwera to fire Secretary to the President and Cabinet (SPC) Colleen Zamba saying, “the leadership at the helm of OPC would be replaced following allegations of poor recruitments, appointments and postings but not forgetting how interdiction of ACB Director General damaged her reputation.”
The civic body told the President that Zamba’s reputation is damaged, and it was in his best interest to replace her which will be in line with the MCP manifesto as the body refuses to condone leadership that frustrates the entire civil service.
“We are aware that the leadership is well qualified but may not suit the current position. Her integrity and credibility remain an issue. We must always act for greater good” said PAC Chairperson Thawale.
PAC, a grouping of different faith leaders, has been accused of being silent whilst Malawians are facing the worst economic and leadership crisis, but on Tuesday met President Chakwera and told him in his face that his leadership is “wanting.”
“Your Excellency you inspired Malawians with your inaugural speech. You motivated everybody. Currently, that positive narrative is quickly shifting from bad to worse largely because of your inconsistencies and delays in the execution of actions and decisions in the administration and management of the economy, the public sector, the rule of law and governance in general,” the group told Chakwera.
President Chakwera has lost popularity, so too Tonse Alliance
President Lazarus Chakwera might have been smiling to the camera before the meeting, but the religious leaders had an axe to grind telling the President he had lost popularity and that the “tantalising” speeches he made during the campaign were empty.
“Your Excellency, it seems the spirit of Tonse Alliance continues to evaporate apart from the cordial relationship with the Vice-President. We watched your rallies on TV and heard your tantalizing pledges. Your Excellency may have a duty to call a meeting of Alliance partners to strategize on how to mitigate your loss of popularity,” charged the faith leaders.
They told the President to stop listening to his hangers-on who have led him into the political wilderness and made him indifferent to advice that different stakeholders have been giving him to correct the economic and governance malaise Malawi has plunged into.
“Your Excellency may have been insensitive to the complaints and pieces of advice from stakeholders leading to the perception that the Tonse Administration seems to be clueless. Your Excellency have no choice but to act decisively on some recommendations made to jump-start the economy,” pleaded PAC.
They told the Malawi President, “ Malawians are crying out there. The poor are starving. The country is lacking a message of hope on the current economic terrain. We cannot maintain the status quo or else we create room for civil strife. Your Excellency, consider appointing 15 Cabinet Ministers with statecraft that can back you up, redeem the situation, and reverse negative perceptions, supported by the new Secretary to the President and Cabinet.”
Chakwera’s office bedrock of nepotism, tribalism, and cronyism
In a hard-hitting speech, Thawale said the faith leaders were dismayed that the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) had become a bedrock of the same things the President criticised prior to assuming office.
He said the appointment of Zamba was met with euphoria but has failed to change the civil service for the better and there are too many allegations of direct nepotism and tribalism, including the appointment of people from her home district of Dowa.
“Your Excellency, for example, there are complaints that some civil service appointments, recruitments, and posting are unprocedural and partisan in nature rendering to conclusions that they favour specific districts or based on party affiliations.
From reliable sources, it looks like some appointments made by the Secretary to the President and Cabinet do not fall within her powers, and in many cases with questionable skills. There has also been the appointment of Principal Secretaries from outside civil service who may not have skills on such positions,” said PAC, confirming The Investigator Magazine’s stories that the SPC has been loading key government offices with “friends and associates” without prior public service experience.
PAC says this is disorienting the general civil service as postings of competent officers to other Ministries in a bid to create room for MCP sympathizers, several Principal Secretaries, Directors, Deputy Directors, and even officers of lower ranks are disgruntled to the extent that government cannot achieve the desired service delivery.
The body said these irregular partisan and nepotistic appointments have led to a ballooned layer of principal secretaries and Directors and even junior staff resulting in a wage bill that is now hovering over 1 trillion Malawi Kwacha, an over-expenditure that has necessitated unwarranted domestic borrowing in an already squeezed fiscal space.
They hit at President Chakwera in a subtle manner, “The perception out there is that this irregular recruitment cannot be done without Your Excellency’s approval.”
Trim your cabinet to 15, fire your squad of advisors
The religious gurus did not mince words in telling Chakwera to trim down his litany of cabinet ministers and fire the whole squadron of advisers, saying the Malawi economy could not support such offices that are delivering nothing to the pressed population.
“Given the current economic situation as rightly pointed out in the address to the Nation on 15th November 2023 in which new austerity measures were announced, Your Excellency may need to move further and fast to dissolve the Cabinet and appoint 15 Ministers only with gravitas and convening power,” saying this would reset his power.
On advisors who now exceed his predecessors, PAC was brutal, “We are of the view that the strategy to maintain all Presidential Advisors on the job cannot work now and runs counter to the austerity measures set soon after 44% devaluation. We advocate that you keep very few of them in critical areas to save money.
“The State machinery has so many experts that any Head of State can call upon for specific pieces of advice. Even outside government, Your Excellency may cheaply outsource than maintaining the entire group of Presidential Advisors. We know they are good people, but the economic situation demands us to act swiftly,” they said.
You messed the economy with frequent flyers, bloated government
The religious body placed the blame on devaluation on President Chakwera saying he had failed to take corrective measures to manage the economy resulting in 69% devaluation between 2022 and 2023 alone.
“Your Excellency, indeed devaluation is a symptom of your actions, omissions, and decisions pursued in the administration of state affairs. Domestic borrowing for consumption, international trips, cabinet size, and the entire size of civil service (including the unwarranted numbers in the embassies) as a result of recruitment have been the driving factors to the current economic affairs of the country.
“We believe tough decisions should have been made earlier, in fact when you assumed office. On the contrary, Your Excellency, domestic borrowing, international travels by state officials including yourself, and failure in general to tighten fiscal policies became the order of the day,” they said.
President Chakwera, despite being in office for three years only, has flown more trips than any other President including Hastings Kamuzu Banda who ruled for 31 years, Bakili Muluzi for 10 years, Bingu wa Mutharika for 8 years and Peter Mutharika for six years.
“It seems to us that your leadership might have forgotten the MCP manifesto and the pledges made. Your Excellency’s actions since you assumed office run counter to the very content and spirit of the MCP Manifesto. We observe that in many areas your decision-making has failed to get the sequencing of your policies right and to get the policy mix right as a strategy,” they charged.
Everyone thinks you fired ACB’s Martha Chizuma
PAC joined the widely condemned decision by SPC Zamba to interdict ACB Director General Martha Chizuma, saying the public lost trust in President Chakwera as he did not act after the embarrassing episode that was condemned by the High Court.
The body said its trust in the anti-corruption drive was eroded in the manner in which the ACB Director General was arrested and interdicted. This, they charged, created a huge dent under the Tonse Administration.
“The interdiction of the ACB Director General dented Your Excellency’s image in that the public felt you approved the decision,” said the body, adding that Malawians were now seeing the selective application of justice and some people were going free despite being implicated in corruption cases.
Can President Chakwera reset? Our analysis
The Public Affairs Committee delivered what is essentially a vote of no confidence on President Lazarus Chakwera’s leadership. They accused him, diplomatically of all failures including the economy, public appointments, and the fight against corruption.
They told Chakwera the truth, Malawians are fed up, and continuing this path could drive Malawi towards social conflict. This was not an empty threat, the anger out there is real but those currently in power are oblivious to the real situation.
We have been there before with the arrogant party of Kamuzu Banda as its end neared, we saw how Bakili Muluzi hopelessly failed to convince Malawians to give him a third term. We saw how Malawians protested against Late Bingu wa Mutharika on July 20, 2011.
We saw how Malawians voted out Joyce Banda and later removed Peter Mutharika. Before the fall of all five Presidents, PAC had issued the same warning to the leaders. Their party mongers called PAC names. Politicians never learn.
Can President Chakwera reset; the challenge is the President has no leadership skills. He can’t make his own decision. He consults a lot of people to decide, and in the end, he gets lost and confused. He has surrounded himself with people who have a low capacity to deliver but a high appetite to steal.
If he wants to reset, he needs to start by resetting himself from a “family, friends, tribe and religion” approach to scout for the best minds among Malawians that can help to salvage the little of his legacy which is now well-documented as the most failed presidency since independence.