New, leaner cabinet of "national unity"

After a three-week delay, Malawi's new President, Bingu wa Mutharika, has unveiled a leaner cabinet, which analysts say will find favour with international donors.

The new cabinet announced on Sunday contains 21 ministers and eight deputies, compared to the 46-strong cabinet under his predecessor, Bakili Muluzi.

During his tenure Muluzi was often chided for his bloated government, which critics argued contributed to overspending in the aid-dependent country.

"Donors are likely to be quite supportive of President Wa Mutharika's decision to trim the number of senior officials, given the enormous political pressures he had to contend with while making the appointments. It is likely that the international community in Malawi will give him time to consolidate his position and develop his own personal style of governance," Rafiq Hajat, director of the Institute for Policy Interaction, told IRIN.

Soon after he assumed power, Wa Mutharika called for the formation of a government of national unity. The proposal, originally scoffed at, has since found favour among the opposition.

The Republican Party (RP) and the Movement for Genuine Democratic Change have withdrawn a legal petition challenging the results of the 20 May poll, and agreed to team up with the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) to work together in the government.

The opposition National Democratic Alliance on Monday also raised the possibility of working with the UDF-led government.

Wa Mutharika gave the finance portfolio to Goodwell Gondwe, former International Monetary Fund director for Africa and economic advisor to Muluzi, to kick-start the moribund economy.

He also appointed Hetherwick Ntaba as minister of health, a position he held in the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP).

Ntaba was fired from the MCP just months before the May national poll and then founded his own party, the National Congress for Democracy (NCD), which worked with the UDF and the Alliance for Democracy (Aford), headed by former second vice president Chakufwa Chihana.

Aford, a UDF alliance partner during the election, got six seats in parliament, while the NCD got none.

Chihana will remain at the helm of the ministry of agriculture, irrigation and food security, while education will be headed by Yusuf Mwawa, previously Muluzi's minister of health.

Mwawa is expected to overhaul the education system, which for the last 10 years has been plagued by inadequate funding and high drop-out rates among students.

The RP of Gwanda Chakuamba, who led a seven-party opposition coalition in the election, was also given three ministerial posts, although Chakuamba himself was conspicuously left out.

The ministry of economic planning and development, held by Wa Mutharika in the previous administration, has gone to RP MP David Faiti.

The recent poll was marred by sporadic clashes between security forces and opposition supporters, who claimed vote rigging was taking place.

The following is the full list of ministers, according to the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation.

President and commander-in-chief of the Malawi Defence Force and Police Service and minister responsible for defence and the civil Service: Bingu wa Mutharika;

Vice President and Minister Responsible for Statutory Corporations: Dr. Cassim Chilumpha;

Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Food Security: Dr Chakufwa Chihana;

Minister of Finance: Dr Goodall Gondwe;

Minister of Economic Planning and Development: David Faiti;

Minister of Foreign Affairs: Dr George Chaponda;

Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs: Henry Phoya;

Minister of Industry, Science and Technology: Khumbo Chirwa;

Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security: Uladi Mussa;

Minister of Trade and Private Sector Development: Eunice Kazembe;

Minister of Education and Human Resources: Yusuf Mwawa;

Minister of Transport and Public Works: Henry Mussa;

Minister of Lands, Housing and Service: Bazuka Mhango;

Minister of Local Government and Rural Development: Jaffali Mussa;

Minister of Information, Communications and Tourism: Dr Ken Lipenga;

Minister of Labor and Vocational Training: Lilian Patel;

Minister of Health: Dr. Heatherwick Ntaba;

Minister of Mines, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs: Davis Katsonga;

Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture: Henry Chimunthu Banda;

Minister of Women, Child Welfare and Community Services: Joyce Banda;

Minister of Social Development and Persons With Disabilities: Clement Chiwaya.