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Monday, 6 November, 2000, 00:23 GMT
Heads roll in Malawi cabinet
Bakili Muluzi
Muluzi: Sacks two big names, but keeps many others
By Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre

Malawian President Bakili Muluzi has announced his new cabinet, after firing the previous one on Wednesday amid reports of high corruption and fraud in government.

Axed
Cassim Chilumpha (education)
Peter Chupa (labour)
Brown Mpinganjira (transport)
The new cabinet, announced on Sunday, contains 25 ministers and 10 deputies, with some big names in the previous cabinet conspicuously left in the cold.

Topping the list of casulties is former Transport Minister Brown Mpinganjira and former Education Minister Cassim Chilumpha.

Former Labour Minister Peter Chupa has also missed the boat.

The parliamentary Public Accounts Committee blew the whistle on high corruption and fraud in government when it published its highly damning report in July.

It listed ministers and top government officials said to be implicated in the multi-million Kwacha fraud involving shoddy government contracts.

Since the publication of the report Mr Muluzi has been under heavy pressure from donors, opposition parties, religious leaders and civil rights groups to sack the ministers who are implicated.

But Mr Muluzi has always said he was waiting for evidence.

Phantom classrooms

The education ministry lost at least 125 million Malawi Kwacha ($1.5m) in over-payment for construction of school buildings that were never built or only partly completed.

Malawi's capital Lilongwe
Shake-up in Lilongwe
Donors countries, led by the United Kingdom, openly told the president that his government's credibility could be on the line if he did not act decisively.

But, although the president's decision to fire Dr Chilumpha and Mr. Mpinganjira - two of his most trusted confidantes - is a bold one, not many people will be pleased.

Mr Muluzi had been urged to trim his cabinet to a manageable size but the new cabinet contains two more ministers than the previous one.

'Cowboy'

The new cabinet also contains four new faces while, some key former ones like the Minister of Finance Mathews Chikaonda, Minister of Health Aleke Banda, Minister of Foreign Affairs Lilian Patel and Minister of Justice and Attorney General Peter Fachi have retained their posts.

One of the four new entrants, Reverend Dr Dumbo Lemani who is coming in as Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, is an interesting character.

Nicknamed "Cowboy", the sports fanatic-turned church minister is known for antics such as drawing a gun in parliament to threaten opposition MPs.

As if that was not gung-ho enough, Dr Lemani engaged a fellow MP from the ruling United Democratic Front in a fist fight after the latter openly said Mr Muluzi was shielding corrupt ministrers.

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See also:

12 Oct 00 | Africa
Malawi graft: UK talks tough
01 Nov 00 | Africa
Malawi sells ministers' Mercedes
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