- PAC, Parliament want him to reduce presidential powers
President Peter Mutharika is facing war on two fronts—PAC and Parliament—which have said they will put pressure on him to reduce some of his powers in line with promises he made before the 2014 Presidential elections.
Public Affairs Committee publicity secretary Father Peter Mulomole said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that Mutharika had reneged on his promise and should be taken to task.
Said Mulomole: “This is betrayal of people’s trust. It is surprising that the President who authored an academic paper which was presented at the constitutional conference of 1995 should fail to honour his pledge. He renewed his commitment during the interface we had with him prior to the 2014 polls.
“We were happy to see the promise in the DPP manifesto but with just over a year to go the Executive has changed its tune. This is a crucial matter in as far as accountability and good governance is concerned.”
Mulomole said there was a need to review the Constitution which, currently is giving the Executive branch of government an advantage over Parliament and the Judiciary.
“There is no equality between the arms of the government. The Executive has too much powers and that is not good for democracy,” he said.
However, Mulomole justified PAC’s recent silence on the matter as strategic saying PAC had decided to focus more on electoral and local government reforms in order to ensure progress. Among others, PAC is pushing for the enactment of the 50 + 1 electoral system to replace the first-past-the-post system.
Public Appointments Committee chairperson Lingson Belekanyama in an interview on Wednesday proposed that the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament should look at how they can propose a bill that will normalise the situation.
He described the failure by the Executive to surrender some of its powers as detrimental to good governance and the entrenchment of democratic rule.
“The problem is that as Parliament we are only asked to confirm the appointments whenever the officials are fired or redeployed; we are never told of the reasons. If the presidential powers were trimmed, our committee and other relevant committees should have been instrumental in the hiring and firing of key public officials. This would, in turn, ensure professionalism in the way they perform because they would not fear the Executive.”
Mulomole and Belekanyama made the statements after Mutharika on Thursday last week removed Escom CEO Evelyn Mwapasa and replaced her with former Escom CEO Alexon Chiwaya.
Two weeks ago, Mutharika also redeployed Office of the Directorate of Public Procurement (ODPP) director Paul Taulo to Airport Development Limited (ADL). Mwapasa, according to the Chief Secretary to Government Lloyd Muhara would be redeployed elsewhere in the public service.
Leader of Opposition Lazarus Chakwera told Parliament on Tuesday that Mutharika had a full closet of broken promises.
In its 2014 election manifesto, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) promised to reduce the powers of the President by empowering a special public appointments committee to handle the appointment and removal of top officials in various public institutions.
Says the party in its 2014 election manifesto: “The DPP government will reduce concentration of power in the Presidency.”
“Appointment and removal of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Malawi, Director of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, the Auditor General, the Director of Public Prosecution, Clerk of Parliament, Malawi Human Rights Commission Executive Secretary, the Malawi Law Commissioner, Director General of the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation, Macra Director General, and leaders of other accountability institutions shall be on merit through a special public appointments committee. Merit will also be observed in appointments and removal of Chief Executive Officers and Board members of parastatals.”
But with only 17 months left to the expiry for the current administration’s mandate, the DPP-led government has not fulfilled any of those promises.
In April, Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Samuel Tembenu pushed back calls from PAC and Parliament to trim presidential powers on the appointment and firing of key officers for public institutions that fight corruption.
Presidential spokesperson Mgeme Kalilani, in a WhatsApp response on Tuesday, maintained that President Mutharika would fulfil the pledges that he made without specifying when this will be done.
“The President remains fully committed to all commitments he made prior to his election as President of the Republic of Malawi. The ongoing Public Service Reforms are a practical example of his government’s commitment towards achieving those commitments,” he said.
Political commentator Ernest Thindwa in a telephone interview on Tuesday said the current administration had flopped on most of its key promises.
“On key promises such as reduction of presidential powers, they have scored zero. Indeed to date, power is concentrated in the presidential office. These are key promises if we have to see improved governance. In my view the DPP has not come nearer to delivering on their promises with regard to these.”
But Thindwa said there was still hope for Malawians to hold the ruling clique accountable by legal means.
He said: “People have an opportunity to voice out their dissatisfaction through parliamentarians but this is hindered by the fact that the link between MPs and their constituents is minimal. But people can also express their dissatisfaction through peaceful demonstration. In fact, they can demonstrate as long as they want, we have cases in Korea and Brazil where demonstrators have been on the streets for months. The problem is that we Malawians are passive and as a result, politicians take advantage of that weakness.”
Professor of political studies at Chancellor College Happy Kayuni in a telephone interview on Tuesday said there was need for more decisive participation by the electorate. Said Kayuni: “We need an electorate that is very critical when our politicians are making these extravagant promises. What the electorate should be doing is to take the politicians to task so that they can demonstrate exactly how realistic the promises are. What we are seeing is that when politicians promise something the masses just accept everything as gospel truth.
“The electorate need to be critical enough so that people are not taken for granted. The promises have not been fulfilled and most of these that they claim to have been fulfilled are cosmetic but this problem is not peculiar to DPP because all the other parties have similarly made such promises.” n