Chakwera fails: Zero Cabinet, rescinds tax band, rebuffed by Msiska

Indecisive! This word sums up president Lazarus Chakwera’s first nine days in office.

Chakwera was elected president in the June 23 Fresh Presidential Elections and was sworn in on June 28. He immediately got to work the next day, appointing four cabinet ministers and the Attorney General. He promised to appoint the other cabinet ministers before July 6.

New Finance Minister Felix Mlusu then presented a provisional budget in Parliament on June 30.

However, Chakwera’s problems started on the same day, June 30, when Modecai Msiska SC, a private practice lawyer, turned down the position of Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.

Msiska, who was also Chakwera’s lawyer in the presidential election case, said he did not want to be seen as being rewarded for representing Chakwera in the case.

“Thank you for your kind sentiments. I have, however, conveyed my inability to accept the offer. I have personal reasons as well as my discomfort at having acted as lead counsel then taking a position from our Very Esteemed Client,” he said in a statement.

The incident led to questions over the manner of cabinet appointments with Malawians accusing the president of not consulting nominees before appointing them.

A professor of law at the University of Cape Town, Danwood Chirwa, described the Modecai Msisha debacle as “a silly mistake” by Chakwera who reduced the Senior Counsel as “a means to an end — an instrument”.

Professor Chirwa described the failed appointment as “made on the spur of the moment [that] no credible employer would do, especially for senior positions like that”

Malawians were also reminded of a similar incident earlier this year when politician Chimunthu Banda refused to take up a ministerial post in the President Peter Mutharika administration.

Some social commentators wondered if Malawians had not replaced one incompetent administration with another.

Days after Msiska turned down the post, Chakwera is yet to appoint a new Minister or name full cabinet despite promising to have a cabinet in place before July 6.

On Sunday, he told Malawians that a new Minister of Health will start working by Monday to lead the fight against the Coronavirus, but that is also yet to happen.

Chakwera’s spokesperson Sean Kampondeni said the president will reveal his full cabinet this week.

In the budget Mlusu presented in Parliament, the minister increased the tax free band from K45,000 to K100,000.

The increase was one of the promises Chakwera’s Tonse Alliance made during campaign for the Fresh Presidential Elections.

While Malawians were looking to start enjoying the benefits soon, Mlusu announced on Tuesday this week that the new tax band will become effective after enabling Taxation Amendment Bill is presented and passed in Parliament.

The next meeting of Parliament is expected to start in September or October this year.

Malawians have high expectations from the Chakwera administration but at the moment it can be concluded that Chakwera’s presidency has not started on a good note.

It is possibly this that renowned social and political commentator, Onjezani Kenani, warned Malawians of the “danger of being carried away” by the iconic speech that President Chakwera delivered during his inauguration.

“There is no doubt that these words give us hope, but action is better, and it takes time to unfold. So we wait with great patience. If we see that actions do not match with the rhetoric, we will speak forcefully” Kenani posted on his Facebook account.

Will the “Bad Beginning Makes Good Ending” exonerate the Chakwera and his Tonse Coalition? In Bob Marley’s words, only time will tell.

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