Malawi’s new leader targets graft in state bodies

Malawi's newly elected President Lazarus Chakwera has dissolved the boards of most of the country's 100 parastatals to tackle corruption. Image: AP
Malawi's newly elected President Lazarus Chakwera has dissolved the boards of most of the country's 100 parastatals to tackle corruption. Image: AP

Malawi's newly elected President Lazarus Chakwera has dissolved the boards of most of the country's 100 parastatals to tackle corruption.

Acting just days after his election Sunday, he also suspended government contract awards to carry out an audit and verify the credibility of the process.

Chakwera only took office in the southern African country after a re-run of last year's contested presidential elections. He won with almost 59 percent of the vote, beating his predecessor Peter Mutharika.

Malawi's top court had annulled the results of the May 2019 election because of fraud claims and ordered fresh polls.

During his first week in office, Chakwera dissolved the board of directors at 60 of the country's 100 parastatals — state-run enterprises.

The president said on Tuesday he had received reports on the operations of state institutions that would “inform steps” to address the “anomalies and malpractices within them”.

Chakwera's spokesman Sean Kampondeni said that the president wanted to ensure all parastatals were “keeping with the law”.

Seats on the boards of Malawi's parastatal organisations have long been reserved for ruling party loyalists and well-connected officials.

Smallholder subsidies approved

Most appointments were made without consideration of merit. ... It was simply part of a patronage system meant to serve and retain the regime

“Most appointments were made without consideration of merit,” said political analyst Henry Chingaipe, with the thinktank Institute for Policy Research & Social Empowerment.

“It was simply part of a patronage system meant to serve and retain the regime,” he said, calling on Chakwera not to repeat the status-quo by appointing his own loyalists.

The new government acted Wednesday to suspend the awards of government contract.

“This suspension is aimed at ensuring corruption-free and fair contract management and prudence in public financial management,” the president's office said in a statement.

Last year, Transparency International ranked Malawi 123rd out of 180 countries in its annual corruption index.

Chakwera's victory has brought hope for change in landlocked Malawi, where around half of its 18 million people live below the poverty line.

This week parliament passed a 722 billion kwacha (R672,08 billion) provisional budget aimed mainly at subsidising fertiliser for 3.5 million smallholders, mostly tobacco farmers.

This represents a first step towards Chakwera's campaign promise of a universal subsidy.

The minimum wage has also been increased to K50,000 (R46,543), up from K35,000 (R32,580), while the tax-free threshold has been bumped up to K100,000 (R93,139).



Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

X