Malawi: Chakwera Set On Deconstructing Presidency's Powers - 'Demand Malawi MPs Vote for Legislative Changes'

Malawi flag.
9 August 2020

President Lazarus Chakwera has said he taken administrative steps to reduce presidential powers but urged Malawians - through his radio national address on Saturday night - to support his plan and realise the goal he has set was not mere talk as was the case before with his predecessors.

Chakwera - who promised to reduce his presidential powers in a campaign - pointed out that a president in Malawi has too many decisions to make and has too much appointing power and that he means his word on the promise.

"I do not say something unless I mean to do it. But to get this done. I need your support. The reduction of presidential powers is a collective effort," said Chakwera in his radio address statement.

"As such, it is important that we all understand what these powers are . In summary, the presidency has kinds of powers . The first category of powers a president has is positional," he said.

In his third weekly program on Saturday on state controlled Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), Chakwera says the presidency has four powers.

He said the first category of powers a president has is positional, saying there are certain positions and offices that are reserved for the president alone, such as the position of Head of State, Head of government and commanfder-in-chief of the Armed Forces.

"However, I believe it is time we reviewed the merits of having the president also occupy an office like the Chancellor of the public university.

"This is a relic from a bygone era that we need to part with, for I know of no free country at the helm of an educational institution that exists to produce free thinkers," he said.

He also said there is need to trim the executive powers of the president, saying there are too many decisions made by a president.

Chakwera said having a presidency that makes too many decisions has created problems for the country for a long time.

"There must be decisions that when made by parliament are final, and even where the president has the power to veto such decisions, he should no longer be allowed to sabotage the governance framework by sitting on the decision," he said.

Chakwera also said there is an anomaly that the president has to appoint officials from Judiciary, to the legislature, to the executive, to constitutionally mandated institutions designed to operate independently, boards of statutory corporations, foreign embassies and traditional leaders.

"This is unwise. No person is good or humble enough to be entrusted with that much appointing power, for it is not possible for a president to be the appointing authority of that many offices without at some point coming face to face with conflict of interest," he said.

Some presidential powers governance activists have demanded to have them reduced is the President's authority to appoint heads of some institutions such asAnti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Malawi Defence Force, Malawi Police Service, among others.

Chakwera expressed his firm position that his administration will reduce the powers a President has in making appointments.

Chakwera also said Malawians need to review their behavior towards the president.

"This includes how we address a president, how many times a president is mentioned in salutations at a single event, how many cars and firepower a president's convoy has," he said.

He said there was need to review the culture of a sitting president using state vehicles and state security during political campaign.

Chakwera has since asked Malawians to demand the Members of Parliament to vote for these changes so that the powers of governance institutions that serve the people directly increase and the powers of the president decrease.

Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Titus Mvalo, asked about progress on the issue of Chakwera's intentions to reduce presidential powers, said there are procedures that have to be undertaken and it's a process.

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