The reshuffle follows July 20 protests against the worsening economic situation and daily shortages of fuel and foreign exchange despite official annual growth figures of 7 percent or more.
Among the changes is the removal of former finance minister Ken Kandodo, a grand nephew of the late dictator Kamuzu Banda and of the champion of the ‘zero-deficit budget.’ The French Press Agency says he wanted to use local resources to replace aid money lost when several donor nations cut their financial support over concerns about poor governance.
Noel Mbowela, a political science lecturer at Mzuzu University, said he wondered about the qualifications of some of the new appointees, including the new Minister of Finance, Ken Limpenga.
President Bingu wa Mutharika's new cabinet eliminates 14 posts.
"One wonders the logic," he said, "behind appointing someone who is a linguist to the position of the finance minister that could befit someone with a background in economics.”
Besides Mr. Kandodo, other casualties include former local government minister Anna Kachikho, former development planning and cooperation minister Abbie Shawa, and former foreign affairs minister Professor Etta Banda.
Former Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe now has a portfolio in Environment Ministry. The South Africa Press Agency says Gondwe, a former senior official of the IMF, will be tasked with trying to resume international aid flows to Malawi. Nearly $100 million dollars in aid was suspended eight years ago due to concerns about government overspending.
The Malawi Democrat newspaper says government leader in parliament, Dr George Chaponda, who was serving as Justice Minister, has been posted to a post he once handled, the Ministry of Education. Justice and Constitutional Affairs has been given to Ephraime Chiume.
Also returning to the cabinet, says the paper, is Information Minister Patricia ‘Akweni’ Kaliati who becomes government spokesperson and Henry Mussa as minister of public works.
It says Yunus Mussa has been appointed minister of Lands, Aaron Sangala as minister of Internal Security, Daniel Liwimbe as minister of tourism and Dr Jean Kalirani as health minister. John Bande is minister of rade.
Political scientist Noel Mbowela said one of the biggest surprises in the new cabinet is the removal of the country’s vice president Joyce Banda. She’s been a critic of the administration, and was expelled from the ruling party.
“This is a very big anomaly." he said, " because the vice president was elected through the vote, if anything she was supposed to appear just like the president in all the cabinet appointments.’’
The President’s younger brother and Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate for 2014, Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, has been moved from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Mutharika’s wife Callista remains in the cabinet despite criticism from opposition politicians and civil rights groups who had demanded that the first lady should be confined to charity programs.
SAPA says the secretary of the presidency and the cabinet, Bright Msaka, said that the appointments were based on "individual merit, religion and gender balance."
The new members of the cabinet will be sworn in at New State House in the capital Lilongwe on Thursday.