By Sylvester Chibwana
As the Cabinet Reshuffle looms following President Chakwera new year national address, Malawiana Times introduces a series of performance reviews for cabinet ministers and crucial Government appointments. Part 1 focuses only on the first eight exceptional cabinet performers who may need to be maintained or moved to other more challenging Ministries. The review excludes the President and Vice in part one, but will review them separately in part 4. We have put together and analysed views of various Think Tanks, Media houses, expert professionals, public opinion from social media platforms and survey results. We will not mistake media visibility for performance. Here we look at what exactly are the administrative and political functions of a Minister. Administratively, a Minister must provide strategic guidance and direction on the daily functions of a Ministry, departments, agencies, programs and projects. On the political front, a Minister links the political Govt which forms policy directions and interprets political party manifesto to the administrative Govt headed by principal secretaries. Minister must also ably respond quickly to emerging issues. We have graded from 0% to 100%, where 0% is the lowest score. Here is a summary of the analysis and results of the first eight Ministers with exceptional performance:
1. Minister of Finance – Hon Sosten Gwengwe.
The Minister has successfully managed to lead the Finance Ministry in the most difficult socio-economic times in the history of the nation, ranging from COVID 19, ever increasing commodity prices due to the war in Eastern Europe, forex and fuel shortage, and flight of donor support and confidence. The Minister has rescued the country from an impending economic total collapse. If he had started in 2020, probably the story could be more interesting. Minister has helped Government bring in more forex through grants, loans, and revenue collection through MRA and others. Many landmark projects have been financed and completed, and many others in progress.
Since Minister has not served full term in same Ministry, he has thus been given opportunity for improvement in the area of internal financial controls. IFMIS continues to pose some of the greatest challenges towards quick delivery of services. Fraud continues to rock the public service.
Score: 85% – to be maintained.
2. Minister of Youth and Sports – Hon Richard Chimwendo MP.
The Minister has achieved quite a lot in leading the nation through Region Five Games, and construction of various sports infrastructure across the country. It should be noted that the Minister was recently moved from Homeland Security where he also performed well. Therefore the assessment only focuses on the period he has served in the current Ministry.
However, a lot could be done on the Youth component, such as introduction of national youth service program and more Youth engagement in development programs. Over 75% of the population are youths but most of the policy interventions favour the older. For instance the Minister should take advantage of youth related programs and projects such as NEEF to help create more jobs and promote youth engagement.
Minister needs to be maintained and focus more on the Ministerial post. Minister seems overloaded with being Director of Youth at his party, Leader of House in Parliament, and Legislator. One wonders how he would effectively deliver in all the four roles on top of the rest he may have outside public offices. In future when Malawi’s democracy matures more, it would be prudent to NOT appoint MPs to be cabinet ministers to avoid conflict of interest and subsequent compromised performance.
Score: 80% – to be maintained.
3. Minister of Unity – Hon Timothy Mtambo.
Minister has managed to successfully lead the national peace and unity agenda across the country, and set up a new Ministry with fully operational departments with minimal funding. Managed to partner with more development partners on unity, peace and civic education. The passing of the Peace and Unity Bill into law which Chakwera assented to recently is one of the major landmark achievements. The National Day of Unity annual event aimed at bringing together all Malawians from diverse backgrounds, religions, political parties and cultural groupings promises further unity and peace. The Peace Charter, National Unity abs Peace Commission, and the District Peace and Unity Committees. Some community outreach interventions on COVID, Cholera, road safety and other policy related have been noticed through Pabwalo and Malawi Wanga civic engagement programs. The Ministry just has the right passionate and experienced Minister in the field. Minister has also been very useful in the COVID Task Force and AIP Task Committee.
However, the Civic Education component could help this country more on the anti-corruption fight, mindset change, reforms, fighting pandemics such as the cholera and Covid. However it looks like the role has also been left to everyone to implement. Minister should have engaged more CSOs to partner with Govt. Mtambo could contribute much better in a more challenging Ministry such as Local Government, Homeland Security, Education or Gender.
Score: 80% – to be maintained or moved to another Ministry.
4. Minister of Health – Hon Khumbize Kandodo
The Minister has demonstrated exceptional leadership ability. Minister successfully led the nation in fighting COVID. The nation’s health services were overwhelmed, but the Minister relentlessly fought to keep the systems functional.
Not much policy leadership and direction has been seen in disease prevention and preparedness to pandemics such as cholera. It’s scary currently to see how the nation is quickly plunging into a Cholera national-wide pandemic.
Her performance has mostly split opinion with many thinking she could have done a great job. The Covid Funds issue under her watch has done damage to her time in the Ministry. As a hard worker, Khumbize can do with moving to another Ministry such as Gender . Suitable replacements include names like Juliana Lunguzi
Score 70% – to be maintained or moved to another Ministry
5. Minister of Information and Digitisation – Hon Gospel Kazako.
The current Administration has maintained clear communication with the public from the onset. The Government meets the press is one of the most notable. On digitisation, through MACRA, the media has been further regulated to promote accountability and responsible journalism.
However, Minister should have done more on digitisation, cyberspace, drone technology promotion and regulation, curbing out abuse by mobile operators on data theft and call charges. There is need for serious implementation of the ICT policy to curb abuse of social media. Mobile money fraud has increased without check.
Kazako has just done enough to make it in the next cabinet although he faces suitable challengers such as Moses Kunkuyu
Score 65% – to be maintained.
6. Minister of Agriculture – Hon Sam Kawale.
Minister did so well at Ministry of Lands with new policies and laws enacted. The Minister should have been left at Ministry of Lands. It appears he will not perform as much at Ministry of Agriculture. His response to AIP challenges is disastrous. This Ministry requires a goal getter, result oriented hard to the core personality with full of energy. With so much human and material resource, AIP and any agriculture projects should never fail.
A lot of Malawians would love to see Kawale return to Lands Ministry to finish the great work he started. However in the short time he has been in the cabinet he has proved to be a deliverer and the challenge at Ministry of Agriculture is something Malawians will look forward to see how he performs
Score 90% – to be maintained
7. Minister of Gender – Hon Patricia Kaliati.
The Minister has well represented women’s struggle for emancipation. Minister has further networked with development partners to uplift the plight of women and children, though boys and some men have been left out. Chakwera has done so well to appoint several women in various positions of national importance.
However, the Minister has not given any new policy direction on gender other than following what NGOs are implementing. Most issues handled by Police Victim Support Unit are gender, women and children matters. The Minister should have focused on mainstreaming gender in both public and private sector. For instance the policy launched at MBC against harassment in work places should have become law. Child protection policy should have become law and compel every institution dealing with children to implement.
NGOS and CSOs which form a larger part of national annual expenditure and forex source fall under this Ministry. However not much has been done to regulate the industry, or audit what they implement. In many circumstances there has been redundance and overwrap of development projects in some areas while having none in others. Coordinate more with other Ministries that handle children and women, NGO Board, CONGOMA and others.
Score 71% – to be maintained or moved to another Ministry.
8. Minister of Education – Hon Agnes Nyalonje.
The Minister provided exceptional leadership and direction in the most difficult COVID 19 times; introduced remediation and other ODL platforms to mitigate challenges of shortage of lesson times. Exam results indicated improvement. Also there has been reduction in exam cheating. The Ministry has tried to hire more teachers though still negligible as compared to the need.
Minister should have resolved the issue of Quota system across the sectors. Minister should have also focused on recruitment and training of more teachers. More schools should have been built. Most Education in Malawi has remained irrelevant, needs to further innovative and reorganise to meet the ever changing global trends. The Ministry keeps failing to support and regulate the private education sector which is exponentially growing. Education is becoming extremely expensive while also graduating too many from programs that are not as useful to the society and job market.
While Nyalonje has not done badly , The Education Ministry can do with a new face
Score 65% – to be maintained or moved to another Ministry.
Part 2 of the Performance Review will focus on the remaining cabinet positions.
Part 3 shall focus on crucial appointments such as ACB Director, Attorney General, DPP, Ombudsman, Police Inspector General, MRA Commissioner General, Reserve Bank Governor and many more.
Part 4 which will be the last in the current series shall focus on the office of the President, Vice and the entire Administration as a whole.