, BLANTYRE, May 3 – President Joyce Banda on Thursday sacked Malawi’s former first lady from a controversial job, in her latest purging of late president Bingu wa Mutharika’s allies.
Banda’s office announced in a statement that well-known rights activist Dorothy Ngema will be the new coordinator for safe motherhood, removing Mutharika’s widow Callista who had occupied the position for two years.
The 61-year-old has swept Mutharika’s backers out of key posts since taking office on April 7, including firing his brother Peter as foreign minister.
Peter Mutharika had been styled as a successor to the president and was accused of plotting to seize power after the leader’s sudden death from a heart attack last month.
The late leader had sacked Banda from the motherhood job and replaced her with his wife. The former first lady, once a tourism minister, was earning $7,500 a month, a princely sum in one of the world’s poorest countries.
The move had angered civil society which demanded that his wife’s salary be scrapped as they argued it was for all intents charity work. Her salary could have paid 30 nurses or 93 primary school teachers a month.
Ngema’s appointment is effective from Friday. She is a champion of the fight to improve the country’s poor health standards.
Last week, Banda unveiled a 23-member cabinet and gave herself several key portfolios to beef up her powers as southern Africa’s first female president.
Amid major shortfalls of fuel and foreign currency, she has also moved swiftly to restore donor confidence and vowed to address concerns previously voiced by key lenders after major falling outs with Mutharika.