Friday, 10 July 2020

Malawians have voiced anger after newly appointed President Lazarus Chakwera unveiled a cabinet that they said was tainted by family ties.

Chakwera, 65, comfortably beat Peter Mutharika with 58.5 percent of the vote in last month's election, marking the first time in African history that an election rerun led to the defeat of an incumbent.

On Wednesday night, the new president announced a 31-member cabinet that included six figures who are related to each other, although not to the president.

The new labour and health ministers are brother and sister, while the incoming information minister is the sister-in-law of the new deputy agriculture minister.

Chakwera's former running mate in the 2019 elections, Sidik Mia, will serve as the transport minister while his wife will be the deputy minister for lands.

The Human Rights Defenders Coalition, which led sustained countrywide protests against the disputed 2019 elections, said there were "widespread concerns".

"First is the issue of family members in the cabinet, such as husband and wife and brother and sister," the coalition's national coordinator, Luke Tembo, told AFP news agency. The second was regionalism, he said.

"We have noted that 70 percent of the ministers are from the central region and that Lilongwe alone has nine ministers, and we know that the president comes from Lilongwe," he said.

Social activist Mkotama Katenga-Kaunda said the move was disappointing as the incumbent had promised: "This new Malawi will get rid of nepotism and cronyism."

"Malawians feel that these cabinet posts were not awarded to some individuals based on merit, but based on what monetary support they gave to the alliance during the campaign," he said.

Chakwera also nominated a new police chief, new central bank governor and tax authority head.

A former evangelical preacher, Chakwera promised to tackle corruption on his election ticket. His victory brought hope for change in landlocked Malawi, where about half of its 18 million people live below the poverty line.

Danwood Chirwa, a professor of law at the University of Cape Town, described the nominations as "political patronage", saying the president has "quickly transformed himself into a good salesman of words and rhetoric while serving the same stale dishes Malawians have fed on in the last 26 years".

Chirwa said Malawians should raise their voices and reject the cabinet.

"On Monday, he promised heaven, yesterday he unleashed hell," he said.

"He has reduced the electoral victory to the actions of a few individuals whose main interest is to profit from the state, not through the ordinary remuneration and other trappings ministerial positions offer, but through corruption and looting."

Gender activist Emma Kaliya also described the cabinet as a raw deal.

"We are deflated that the president has not lived up to the promise of 40 percent female representation. What is even more saddening is that most women are deputy ministers. His appointments are less inspiring," Kaliya told The Nation, a local daily.

Chakwera's spokesperson Sean Kampondeni said: "President Chakwera will himself address those concerns soon."



Published in Economy

Pakistan overtook Uganda to become the biggest buyer of Kenyan goods in the first five months of the year after supplies to Kampala were largely slowed by coronavirus-induced delays at the border.

Earnings from exports to Pakistan, predominantly tea, bumped 19.37 percent to Sh24.13 billion($224m), pushing the world's fifth most populous country back to the summit of top importers of Kenyan products for the first time since 2017, official data shows.

The data collated by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows supplies to the land-locked Uganda, Kenya’s largest overall trading partner, dropped 5.65 percent to Sh20.22 billion, largely hurt by delays in April and May due to a requirement for truckers to have Covid-free certificates.

That slowed delivery of goods – including vegetable oils, fuel, iron and steel as well as paper and paperboard– to Kampala, pushing the country down to third biggest buyer of Kenya’s after being leapfrogged by the United Kingdom (UK).

Revenue from exports to the UK, the former Kenya’s colonial master, grew at the fastest pace of 30.06 percent to Sh21.49 billion on increased demand for fresh farm produce such as fruits, cut flowers and vegetables.

Kenya Flower Council, the lobby for large-scale flower farms, said demand for Kenyan fresh produce in Europe and other key destinations has been rising since April at about 30 percent of targeted sales to current levels of nearly 75 percent.

Delivery has, however, been hurt by erratic freight services with most airlines prioritising medical supplies in the fight against contagious Covid-19, KFC chief executive Clement Tulezi said on phone.

“The biggest challenge we have at the moment is freight. It is only the UK which has remained open for the longest even when we were in the heat of Covid shocks two months ago,” said Mr Tulezi.

“Our hope is that as Europe and other markets start to open, and increased demand and less supplies comes in, we should be able to attract more freighters into Nairobi.”

Overall, Kenya’s exports rose 6.73 percent (or Sh16.98 billion) in the January-May 2020 period to Sh269.13 billion, spurred by increased sale of tea and horticultural products.

Tea earnings jumped 18.90 percent to Sh58.62 billion, cut flowers by 4.23 percent to Sh51.14 billion, while income from sale of fruits surged 78.91 percent to Sh11.09 billion.


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Published in Business
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