Malawi Women Lawyers Petition Mutharika Over Cabinet - Demand Mchacha to Be Fired

12 November 2018

Members of Women Lawyers Association have presented a petition to President Peter Mutharika for reducing the number of women in Cabinet from four to three in the 20-member team.

The Women Lawyers on Monday stormed the Office of President and Cabinet at Capital Hill, Lilongwe where they presented the petition to Chief Secretary to the government Lloyd Muhara.

The women lawyers led by their president Sarai Chisala are protesting against poor women representation in the cabinet.

The government has said women empowerment is more than being appointed to serve in the Cabinet.

However, Women Lawyers in their petition argue that "The Cabinet is an important organ of government where decisions affecting the nation are made."

Reads the petition seen by Nyasa Times: "Malawi has a number of women who are well qualified to work as Ministers in all the Ministries duly established in the nation. The decision to appoint less women Cabinet Ministers is in violation of our Constitution which in Section 13 declares it to be a principle of our national policy to actively promote the welfare and development of our people by pushing for gender equality through the full participation women in all spheres of Malawian society on the basis of equal opportunities with men."

But Minister of Information and Communications Technology Henry Mussa, who is the official government spokesperson, said people should not only look at Cabinet as there are many positions headed by women.

He said: "The Malawi Electoral Commission [MEC] chairperson is a woman as well as Competition and Fair Trading [CFTC] chief executive officer. Then we have women leaders in embassies, Parliament [First Deputy Speaker], parastatals and even principal secretaries."

The Women Lawyers Association said they have noted with concern that recent appointments to some Boards of Statutory bodies have not included any women.

"For instance, the recently appointed Board members for the National Water Resources Authority are all male. This is in total disregard of the provisions of the Gender Equality Act which mandates an appointing authority to appoint no less than forty percent (40%) and no more than sixty percent (60%) of either sex in public office. As such the recent appointments are unlawful and have the effect of robbing women of their right to participate in affairs that concern their lives," reads the petition.

The lawyers said the appointments are in "total disregard" to the Constitution that President Mutharika swore to protect and are in clear breach of the Gender Equality Act.

Nonetheless, Women Lawyers have protested the appointment into Cabinet foulmouthed Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regional governor for the South Charles Mchacha who is accused of demeaning women.

The Women Lawyers Association said they are "shocked and deeply disheartened" by the appointment of Mchacha to the role of Deputy Minister of Homeland Security.

"Mr Mchacha has in the recent past unashamedly attacked, insulted and used derogatory and undignified language against women at various political rallies. His behaviour towards women who are participating in public life as equal members of our democratic nation is extremely disturbing," reads the petition.

They argue that appointment of Mchacha in Cabinet puts into question Malawi's commitment to the plight and welfare of women in Malawi, in particular the promises made to protect women from violence in an effort to encourage more women to run for office.

Mchacha's appointment in Cabinet seemingly condones and rewards disrespect of women generally and women in politics in particular, the lawyers observed.

They said the development is an "affront to decency, morality and contravenes the Constitutional values and national policy principles" that President Mutharika swore to uphold.

The Women Lawyers Association therefore calls upon the office of the President to review the recent appointments and increase the number of women in the Cabinet and to include women in all Boards that have no women.

They have also demanded President Mutharika to remove Mchacha from the Cabinet for his derogatory language against women and condemn the abuse of women by all officials.

The lawyers also demand the President to ensure that all future public appointments comply with the law and the spirit of all human rights instruments that Malawi has signed up to.

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