#Malawi finance minister, justice minister likely to lose jobs

President Banda
President Banda
Malawi’s Finance Minister Ken Lipenga and Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara are likely not going to come back into cabinet when President Joyce Banda’s appoints a new team, sources close to the presidency have revealed.

Banda sacked her entire cabinet on Thursday evening in response to a financial scandal involving some ministers and top civil servants, which caused treasury to shut down its payment system.

She met her cabinet on Thursday at the lake re resort of Mangochi where insiders said she informed her team that she had lost faith in them and was sacking them.

“Lipenga will not come back because this has happened on his watch and Kasambara will not come back but the reasons for him are not clear but its anybody’s guess..” said the insider.

About 10 junior government officials have been arrested so far for suspected graft, with police saying they have recovered tens of millions of cash in car boots and homes. The government said last week over K1.2 billion (about $4 million ) has been looted.

A small group of protesters marched in the capital Lilongwe on Thursday and delivered a petition calling for the sacking of top officials, including Finance Minister Ken Lipenga, over the scandal.

Banda, who faces election next year, has won acclaim in the West for austerity measures and gestures to bolster the economy of the aid-dependent, impoverished country.

But moves such as an IMF-backed devaluation of the kwacha currency have stoked inflation, raised the price of food for rural poor and cut into Banda’s domestic support.

Last week, envoys from eight Western donors, whose aid traditionally has accounted for about 40 percent of the state budget, asked Banda to deal with the alleged corruption at treasury and investigate the shooting of the budget director.

“These are worrying developments that potentially risk Malawi’s stability, rule of law and reputation,” the envoys said in the statement.

Budget director Paul Mphwiyo was shot last month in what police suspect was an attack linked to the looting of the Treasury. Mphwiyo survived the shooting but he is together with other top treasury officials under probe.

“People have lost confidence in her leadership and the best thing she can do is to order the arrest of senior officials involved and ask her finance minister to resign,” Lazarus Chakwera, leader of the opposition MCP, said at a public rally over the weekend.

Malawi’s troubled economy has shown signs of improvement in recent months with inflation that was running over 30 percent decreasing slightly while earnings from its main export item tobacco, set to double this year from 2012.

Some diplomats in the capital Lilongwe have warned that if President Banda fails to manage the crisis and punish the culprits, she may lose budget support.