By Chikumbutso Mtumodzi, Malawi’s Director of Information
Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, President of the Republic of Malawi, recently faced accusations of nepotism following reports that he appointed his eldest daughter, Violet, as a diplomat to the European Union (EU) in
President Chakwera has denied the reports, describing them as a figment of some people’s imagination. The President clarified that, as a matter of fact, he only appoints Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
and that foreign mission support staff are appointed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
A week ago, on arrival at Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) in Lilongwe from the United Kingdom, where he attended the Global Education Forum at the invitation of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his
co-host Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, President Chakwera urged journalists and social media operatives to verify sensitive issues with relevant authorities before publication.
He said doing so would prevent them from spreading falsehoods and hurting innocent people in the process.
That is not all; the critics also accused the President of including Violet, the daughter, and son-in-law and presidential Executive Assistant and Director of Communications at State House, Sean Kampondeni as
members of his entourage on the UK trip.
In response, the President simply said that Violet and Sean Kampondeni are Malawians who had specific duties to perform during the trip.
Right to hold opinion
Malawi is a democratic country. The President’s critics have the right to hold any opinion, whether valid or not. Others have reservations about the criticism against President Chakwera regarding these matters,
arguing it is unfair and malicious. That is equally their right in a democracy.
But one thing is clear for sure; every parent, rich or poor, President or farmer, wants their children to have space to showcase their skills and reach their latent potential. Should a son or daughter be denied the right
to work on the basis that their parent is President, cabinet minister or Member of Parliament (MP)? The answer is obviously NO.
Contributing to debate about a President’s daughter who was appointed to some top government position in some African country, a certain commentator argued that “children should not be judged by the identity
of their parents”. It was his opinion that politicians’ children must be able to survive and develop professionally as individuals and “we must give them space to do so”.
Why relatives and friends
Although we have people who are genuinely altruistic and always belabour to make the world a better place, the reality is that a majority of people around the world are evil and would always go out of their way to wish others bad.
They are always plotting and scheming to put others down and always want to be at the receiving end of all the good things. They are sad when others progress, and rejoice when they see some people fall.
Malawi politics is also flush and replete with these people. They constantly plan and scheme against perceived political adversaries and, given an opportunity, they can assassinate their political ‘enemies’ just to put themselves in an advantageous position politically or that of their cronies.
Indeed, there are such evil people in politics, which is why sometimes people in elected position the world over prioritize their safety and security above other matters.
It is also without question that the best way to do this has always been to surround themselves with close friends and relatives, or those who they know would least plot against them.
Out of this list, it is a fact that blood relatives come on top. It is no surprise, therefore, that so many elected leaders across the world have gone on to choose their blood relatives such as sons, daughters, inlaws, among others, as advisors, special assistants and other aides because apart from the fact that they share a special bond, they know that relatives would be the first ones to buy into their vision for a common cause, and last to desert them during lowest moments.
Nothing out of ordinary
So, one may argue that there is nothing out of the ordinary, after all, with a President or, indeed, any other politician, facilitating the appointment of their children or relatives into government positions or taking them on a foreign trip, if they are aides. Their children and relatives are also citizens too deserving of opportunity to work and earn a living.
Former US President Donald Trump appointed his son-in-law Jared Kushner as his White House senior adviser. Justifying the appointment, Trump said Kushner had been “a tremendous asset and trusted advisor” throughout the campaign and transition “and I am proud to have him in a key leadership role in my administration.”
The US Treasury Department announced last June that J.J. Ricchetti, the son of White House counsellor and long-time US President Joe Biden’s confidante Steve Ricchetti, would be a special assistant in the
office of legislative affairs. J.J. Ricchetti now the fourth immediate family member working in the Biden administration.
Steve Ricchetti, a former lobbyist who was chairman of the Biden campaign as well as his Chief of Staff, has an office in the White House and regularly accompanies the President to Camp David and other
destinations. Daniel Ricchetti, his son, serves as senior adviser in the Office of the Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security at the State Department. Shannon Ricchetti, his daughter, is deputy
associate director of the Office of the Social Secretary at the White House.
Just across the border, Andrew Banda, son to Zambia’s fourth President Rupiah Banda, was appointed diplomat to Belgium. Zindzi Mandela- Hlongwane, third daughter of former South African President late Nelson Mandela, served as South African Ambassador to Denmark before she died. The list is long!
Interestingly, in Malawi, Linda, daughter to once powerful UDF politician, Harry Thomson, was appointed diplomat to Brussels. Dumbo Lemani Junior, son to the UDF maverick politician, late Dumbo Lemani was
posted to Canada. The late Dumbo Lemani’s in-law, the late Eunice Kazembe, served as Malawi’s Ambassador to Taiwan.
John Tembo Junior, son to retired MCP President John Zenus Ungapake Tembo, has served as a diplomat in Brussels and London (Deputy High Commissioner).
Dr. Ken Malisita, son-in-law to former President Bakili Muluzi (late Esmie Muluzi’s husband) served as a diplomat in Washington during Muluzi’s rule. The Muluzi government sent son to politician Francis Mphepo to India and another politician Lilian Patel’s son-in-law to Washington DC.
During Muluzi’s presidency, Archibald Kapote Mwakasungula was Ambassador to Zimbabwe when his brother Clement Kapote Mwakasungula was a diplomat to Namibia. Thoko Banda, son to the late powerful UDF cabinet minister, Aleke Kadonaphani Banda, served as a diplomat in Tokyo, Japan, Agrinnah Mussa, wife to once powerful UDF and DPP politician and former cabinet minister, Henry Mtengo wa Minga Mussa, served as High Commissioner in South Africa and Kenya, while their daughter served as a diplomat in Lusaka, Zambia.
Duwa Mutharika, daughter to the late former President Bingu wa Mutharika, served as a diplomat at Malawi Consulate in Johannesburg, Ethel Nyoni, niece to former President the late Bingu wa Mutharika served as a diplomat in Berlin. She is currently in Maputo.
Steve Modzi served as a diplomat in Japan and Geneva. He is nephew to late President Bingu wa Mutharika, son to Bingu’s last born sister Helen Modzi. Helen Modzi worked as a private secretary to late Bingu and later under former President Peter Mutharika, alongside her cousin Linda Salanjira.
Martha Chikuni, now late, daughter to former PS Lucius Chikuni and her mother Irene Chikuni, was sent to Washington as a diplomat. Irene Chikuni was UDF deputy campaign director and special assistant on
women affairs in former President Muluzi’s office.
The late Reverend Lewis Nakari Mwanamveka, who was brother to Joseph Mwanamveka, DPP politician and former Minister of Finance, died while serving as Deputy High Commissioner in Nairobi.
Former First Lady Callista Mutharika niece, Bertha Ndebele, was appointed as deputy head of mission to Harare. The former Minister of Transport and Public Works, late Sidik Mia’s brother, Younos Abdul
Karim, served as Malawi Ambassador to the State of Kuwait. Tadikila, step-son to former President Peter Mutharika, was offered a lucrative job at Roads Authority. Roberta Msaka, daughter to DPP politician and former Justice Minister Bright Msaka, and her husband, a Mr Sagawa, worked at the Malawi Embassy in Ethiopia. Professor Yusuf Juwayeyi, brother in marriage to former powerful UDF politician, Brown Mpinganjira was appointed head of mission to Washington. He is married to Lizzie Lossa’s young sister. Lizzie was married to Mpinganjira, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in 1999. Mpinganjira also sent Nick Ghumbi, husband to Ella Mpinganjira, to New York.
DPP Member of Parliament (MP) for Nkhata Bay Central and former Minister of Lands and Housing, Vuwa Kaunda’s son was a diplomat in Mozambique, while former Homeland Security Minister and current
Mwanza Central MP Nicholas Dausi’s son, Nick, was a diplomat in London.
Whether or not these appointments and others not captured here, were acceptable or unacceptable, depends on which side of the ‘political fence’ one is, maybe.
However, in the Holy Bible, Matthew 7:3-5 (NIV), it is written, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother,
‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye”.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are those of the author not neccesarily of The Maravi Post or Editor.