Chakwera and Chilima (from right)

By Mapwiya Muulupale

Without much ado, let’s cut to the chase! Reacting to the uproar that followed the appointment of an underwhelming Cabinet, the first to have spouses, next of kins, and kith and kins in our history, President Lazarus Chakwera made a promise.

He abandoned his presidential prerogative and pledged to assess and review the Cabinet in December 2020.

He failed to keep this promise in December 2020, and eight months on, there is no reason to believe he can now grab the bull by the horns.

He teased Malawians on 19 February 2021 with a post accompanied by a picture, presumably from his office, depicting him and his Vice President seemingly hard at work conducting Cabinet assessment.

That stunt turned out to be barren, leading sceptics to conclude that the two were hardly working on the day they were supposedly assessing the Cabinet.

February, March, April, May, June, July until now the Ides of August, no reshuffle has happened.

Who can dispute that the so-called Cabinet Assessment act was just a pointless stunt?

No one sane, of course.

Arnold Stephen Jacobs Jr., aka A.J. Jacobs, might have been referring to this government when he estimated that about 90 per cent of decisions are powered by the twin engines of inertia and laziness.

Inertia is best explained by Newton’s first law of motion, the Law of Inertia.

Those well versed in this subject know that the seminal work vis-à-vis the law of inertia was done by Galileo Galilei to his detriment because what we take for granted today was, in Galileo’s era, contentious and blasphemous.

You are now wondering, what has Galileo, Isaac Newton and their principles and laws got to do with Malawi politics today?

Stay with me.

The Law of Inertia, simplified, states that a body in motion will remain in motion, and a body at rest will remain at rest.

Put differently, in life, politics, management and leadership, nothing happens when no one moves. Simplified, where no decisions are made, no action follows.

Now to this “law”, when you add the human dimension, i.e. dishonesty, rivalry, cronyism, petty jealousies, and of course the big seven: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth; what you get is a bomb waiting to explode.

From physics, let us continue with the facts. Chakwera appointed a thirty-two strong cabinet when you include the attorney general and deputy ministers. Two out of the thirty-two were reclaimed by their maker.

Despite several pleas to Chakwera to keep his word per his freely made promise, he has elected inertia. His patchy reactions have all been forced as below:

  1. a) Ken Kandodo – fired after a Covid-19 audit report painted him in a bad light.
  2. b) Chikosa Silungwe – fired for reasons we can only speculate on.
  3. c) Newton Kambala – implicated in the NOCMA debacle and fired.

Three over thirty-two roughly equals 10 per cent. This leaves 90 per cent of the Cabinet intact, despite lacklustre to mediocre performances.

Since indecision is a decision “not to act”, A.J. Jacobs view that about 90 per cent of decisions result from inertia and laziness holds true because Chakwera’s decision is to settle for indecision on the 90 per cent.

While this does not augur well, it is only the first and the least of our worries.

More concerning is that fate plus the three involuntary reactions have created five Cabinet vacancies.

How, while the ministers responsible for Transport, Local Government and Labour had deputies who – in theory – are backstopping the deceased and fired ministers, the Attorney General and Energy Minister don’t have substantive deputies.

Concerning functions of the Minister for Energy:

“In exercise of the powers conferred upon him by Section 95(2) of the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi, His Excellency the President, Dr Lazarus Chakwera, has removed Honourable Newton Kambala from the Cabinet, as a Cabinet member, with effect from 11 August 2021.

“Following this change to the Cabinet, all ministerial powers, functions and responsibilities of the Ministry of Energy shall vest in and be exercised by His Excellency the President. Therefore all queries or matters requiring the attention of the Ministry of Energy should be directed to the President and Cabinet,” Secretary to the President and Cabinet Zanga-Zanga Chikhosi said.

As you can deduce, the third and even more troubling issues here are:

1) the concentration of power and

2) additional work (read: increased need for decisions) piled on an office which, first has vested interests in the fuel saga and is already failing to cope, let alone make or implement policy decisions on time.

Who in his right mind piles more responsibilities on an office that is already failing?

Seven months on, late Siddik Mia and late Lingson Belekanyama are yet to be replaced. If two vacancies have taken this long, what about five?

If this was all there is, Malawians would not be asking questions. But check this:

  1. a) OPC is failing to fill positions of chief executive officers (CEOs) and other top managers in over 15 parastatals despite conducting interviews in December 2020.
  2. b) Some of the organisations where interviews were conducted are Escom, Teveta, Macra, and Mera.
  3. c) Others are Nocma, Public Procurements and Disposal of Assets Authority, MHC, CMST, MIM, FIA, LWB and BWB.
  4. d) The CEO post at CRWB has not been advertised, while that at SRWB was recently advertised.

Let me ask again: where is the wisdom in adding responsibilities onto an office choked by inertia and laziness?

If there is one thing that presidential aspirants ought to know, it’s that this job entails making decisions. The playing to the gallery we see and the poetry we are continuously serenaded with can be delegated, but decision-making is the president’s prerogative, and in this regard, President Chakwera is failing.

This, among other things, exacerbates our already dire straits through policy incoherence, service delivery malaise, lack of national direction, and creating fertile grounds for President Chakwera’s minions to exploit and run rackets of questionable legality, at the taxpayer’s expense.

The inertia is leaving Malawi on autopilot. That’s why his “advisors” – two and counting – are taking matters into their own hands and soiling the president’s reputation.

President Chakwera’s decidophobia (the fear of making decisions) and failure to drive change in deeds and not through mere rhetoric are why public dissatisfaction is slowly but surely permeating even through the rank and file of people who were his diehard supporters yesterday.

You know what? I keep asking myself: knowing that he suffers from chronic decidophobia and firmly believes in leadership by inertia, why did he want this demanding job?

Any idea(s) folks?

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are those of the author not necessarily of the Maravi Post or Editor

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