Hopes high as Malawi’s new president tackles corruption

Lazarus Chakwera, Malawi’s evangelical pastor-turned-president, has begun working on economic reform and fighting corruption. This comes just one month after he said at his swearing-in ceremony that the country requires rebuilding from the rubble of corruption, passivism, laziness and donor dependency.

According to World, Mr Chakwera’s government has already increased the nation’s minimum wage, fired several officials on corruption allegations and suspended some government contracts.  

During his June 28 inauguration, Chakwera, who spent 24 years as leader of the Malawi Assemblies of God (MAG) Christian denomination before entering politics, said he had come to serve, not rule.

Two weeks later, police in the capital city of Lilongwe arrested Norman Chisale, the security aide to former president Peter Mutharika, over links to a $7 million (Sh754 million) cement import scandal. Authorities also detained the acting Regional Police Commissioner Evalista Chisale and 11 other officers over the death of a murder suspect in police custody.

Christians and political observers hope the changes Chakwera has started will last and that the president’s religious background will influence his leadership in the long term.

Speaking to Spanish news website Protestante Digital, Matilda Matabwa, the MAG secretary general, said she was optimistic that Chakwera’s faith would positively influence his leadership style and that he would continue to be the servant they have known over the years as he serves and leads Malawi.

But even as the new president gets down to work, the composition of his 31-member cabinet has drawn criticism from some Malawians because it includes six people who are related to each other although not to him.

For instance, the new Labour and Health ministers are brother and sister, while the Information minister is the sister-in-law of the new deputy Agriculture minister.

Chakwera, 65, defeated Mr Mutharika with 58.5 per cent of the vote in the June election, marking the first time in African history that an election re-run has led to the defeat of an incumbent.