BLANTYRE--Malawi's new president Joyce Banda on Thursday hired a new cabinet of 23 ministers and nine deputy ministers, but gave herself several key portfolios to beef up her powers as the country's first female president.
She has sacked her political rival, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Mutharika, the late president Bingu wa Mutharika's younger brother and anointed heir.
Prof. Mutharika's anointment to succeed his elder brother at his scheduled retirement in 2014 led to the then Vice President Banda's expulsion from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) after she refused to endorse him.
The younger Mutharika's political ambition was thwarted when the 78-year-old economist-turn-political died suddenly on April 5 after suffering a cardiac arrest. Vice President Banda assumed the Office of President as per Constitution two days later.
Pres Banda has maintained several ministers of Mutharika's party, including Ken Lipenga who remains finance minister, according to the cabinet list announced by the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) and signed by chief secretary to the government, Bright Msaka.
The president, who also appointed opposition figures into the cabinet, gave herself "minister responsible" for the Public Service, Statutory Corporations, civil service administration, national relief and disaster management, nutrition, HIV and Aids.
Banda is also the commander in chief of the Malawi Defence Force and the 8, 000 strong Malawi Police Service.
Msaka said the appointments, which were effective on April 26, were made in "pursuant of the constitution and in exercise of the powers conferred upon her by the constitution."
Vice president Khumbo Kachale, who was sacked from Mutharika's party alongside Banda, will head the Ministry of Health.
Prominent lawyer and politician Ralph Kasambara, who once served as attorney general under Mutharika before he fell out with him, has been given the same portfolio. Kasambara, a prominent critic of Mutharika, was arrested recently after he apprehended thugs apparently sent by Mutharika's party to petrol bomb his offices.
Former vice president Cassim Chilumpha, accused of plotting to assassinate Mutharika in a treason trial yet to be concluded, will be minister of energy and mining.
Firebrand and upcoming politician Atupele Muluzi, the son of former president Bakili Muluzi who handed over power to Mutharika in 2004 and has been campaigning vigorously for the 2014 presidential elections, has been roped in as minister of economic planning and development.
Former justice minister Ephraim Chiume is now minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation, while former finance minister Ken Kandodo, a grand-nephew of the late dictator Kamuzu Banda, is the new Minister of Defence. Former Trade Minister Eunice Kazembe returns as education minister replacing a long time Mutharika ally, Dr. George Chaponda.
Malawi's pro-democracy campaigner Chakufwa Chihana may be dead but his son, Enoch - a parliamentarian for the maverick politician's opposition Alliance for Democracy (Aford) - joins cabinet as Youth and Sports minister. Aford's other parliamentarian becomes deputy minister of economic planning and development.
The nine deputy ministers, all MPs, are new to the cabinet.
The number of ministers in the cabinet is often a politically sensitive issue in Malawi, with Mutharika being forced by civil society organisations to trim his cabinet of 42 last year to 17 ministers and several deputies.
See full cabinet list by clicking here
----©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment