September 8, 2005

President fires senior minister

President Bingu wa Mutharika has sacked a senior minister from his Cabinet in a corruption row, a government official has said. Water Minister Gwanda Chakuamba, deputy head in the wa Mutharika-led Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), was ejected from government in a move to pave way for investigations by the Anti-Corruption Bureau into allegations that Chakuamba bought a luxury sedan with World Bank cash. "Chakuamba is under probe by the Anti-Corruption Bureau and it is only right and proper that the investigation is supported by removing the minister," said Deputy Information Minister John Bande. Newcomer Rashid Gaffar has taken over from Mia at the Transport and Public Works ministry.
Chakuamba, Malawi's renowned veteran politician and a key political ally of the country's former president Hastings Kamuzu Banda, was one of the major presidential candidates in the May 2004 elections. He declared himself president before the official results were announced, leading to demonstrations in the commercial capital Blantyre that led to the killing of several people by police. Chakuamba, who led a coalition of opposition parties, joined the Mutharika administration in 2004 and was appointed agriculture minister before being moved to Water Development and Irrigation Ministry in early August. Several top politicians of his Republican Party were also appointed to the cabinet. He quit the Republican Party and joined the president's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) where he was elected as interim first vice president. Chakuamba has in the past few days threatened to resign from Mutharika's DPP for unspecified reasons. Political commentators say Chakuamba has been demanding the position of the country's second vice president, which has remained vacant since 2004.
Early this year wa Mutharika sacked his education minister after the minister was accused of using donor cash to fund his wedding at a plush hotel in the city. Wa Mutharika demoted another minister who was under probe for the printing of 500.000 presidential portraits at a cost of U$784.000. (The Standard, Kenya)

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