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Chakwera makes a clean sweep of his cabinet

After protestors hit the streets accusing the government of betraying its promises to end corruption, the President tries an emergency reshuffle

Rather than sack his ministers facing criminal charges, President Lazarus Chakwera dismissed his entire cabinet on 24 January and promised to name a new one within 48 hours. He singled out Lands Minister Kezzie Msukwa as one who would not be returning to government (AC 21/1/22, Fraud furore engulfs Chakwera).

Chakwera's dismissal of his cabinet follows demonstrations in several cities against the ruling Tonse Alliance. These protests were triggered in part by the deepening scandal around Lands Minister Msukwa, who was arrested by the Anti-Corruption Bureau on 30 December after it detained Ashok Nair, a Malawian associate of Zuneth Sattar, a British businessman.

Msukwa is being investigated over claims that he received 23 million kwacha (US$28,000) and a Mercedes Benz car from Sattar, who was arrested and his business premises searched by the British National Crime Agency in October (AC Vol 62 No 25, President's situation is no joke).

Pressure on President Chakwera has been building ever since the Tonse Alliance between his Malawi Congress Party and the United Transformation Movement came under stress and accusations of nepotism, ethnic favouritism, and patronage started to build (AC Vol 61 No 18, A shaky start for the new broom). So shaky was the alliance that soon after the election they won as an alliance 18 months ago, the MCP and the UTM were opposing each other in by-elections (AC Vol 61 No 23, Stress test for the Tonse Alliance).

Public perceptions that the government was corrupt gained ground early last year as the squabbling between coalition partners escalated (AC Vol 62 No 11, Chakwera loses his lustre).

Especially damaging accusations against Energy Minister Newton Kambala soon followed, and the President had to cast two of his closest allies and advisors into the wilderness over allegations they had tried to influence the award of fuel contracts (AC Vol 62 No 18, Allies prove a trial for the President).

The conviction of businessman Thom Mpinganjira and his sentencing to nine years in prison last September for attempting to bribe Constitutional Court judges was widely welcomed but prosecutions of politicians were conspicuously absent. By the end of last year, Chakwera was being openly ridiculed by former UTM politician Bon Kalindo, who mobilised tens of thousands in vocal street protests demanding action on corruption and a stricken economy (AC Vol 62 No 25, No justice for Cashgate crooks).

Africa Confidential will be reporting on President Chakwera's response to mounting concerns about grand corruption involving senior members of the government and local and international business people.

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