Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. Titus 3:1-2
“I do not say something unless I mean to do it,” President Lazarus Chakwera told The Nation last Saturday. True to his word, Malawians will hear from their servant leader again in another radio and televised weekly message to the country he has been leading since winning the June 23 2020 Fresh Presidential Election.
This is a great trajectory, a powerful empowering of a previously disempowered voter population, and accountability that was lacking in the past six years. Indeed, it is heartwarming to hear that President Chakwera is a man who lives up to his word, delivering on his word.
On the main theme of his message delivered Saturday August 11, 2020, the President outlined his vision to reduce of presidential powers through increasing the powers of governance institutions. In the past five weeks of his presidency, Chakwera has met with civil society organisations while Vice-President Saulos Chilima has been holding meetings with ministries as well as parastatal organisations.
The Tonse Alliance get-to-work policy also kicked into full gear with ministers of Gender, Education, Transport, Information, Labour and other jockeying for media spaces in the various platforms as they swept through their respective ministries to get a bird’s eye view of their statuses. As part of reforms, some principal secretaries have been replaced.
On his part, the President has been captured on various international media. In his local media statement, however, Chakwera spoke not necessarily on issues involving ministries; he spoke on the bigger picture on issues such as the reduction of presidential motorcade and other ceremonies. While the President and the ministers are busy fulfilling their mandates, comment must be made on three issues highlighted in Chakwera’s desire to reduce presidential powers.
The first is that the powers of the President were given by the Constitution, consequently all changes require two thirds of all parliamentarians. This is not parliamentarians in Parliament on any given day, it is all parliamentarians. All the changes the President envisages to have changed, must go through this process.
Secondly, as a graduate of University of Malawi (Unima), I do not agree with the President on his relinquishing the role of Unima chancellor. However, there is wisdom in Chakwera’s stand on “there is no free country in which the State President is at the helm of an institution that exists to produce free thinkers”. It is agreeable that the two are anomalies. However, I must insist that the President at least considers delivering one annual public lecture.
The third issue taken on the proposed presidential powers reduction has to do with appointments. Presidents have been making various appointments such as ministers, statutory corporations and ambassadors and their deputies. There are commissions and ministries that provide the President with recommendations. In the case of statutory corporations, such power of the final decision could be relegated to the Vice-President.
On the appointment of ambassadors and their deputies, however, because the two positions are of persons that will represent the President abroad, he must not relegate this representation to other people. In times past, ambassadors have direct access to the President in executing their duties.
If this appointment protocol is left in the hands of civil servants or ministers, it will continue perpetuating appointments by officials with vested interests, as officials continue stockpiling embassies with a pool of unqualifies, political and unprofessional, backstabbing persons, many of whom sadly, are in embassies as opposed to qualified diplomats doing the work of the country.
The reduction of presidential powers is an immensely welcomed decision. However, there are some appointments that will still have to be made by the President, using the culturally age-old protocols. This is prevalent in the matter of diplomats. Please let the Chakwera reign supreme.
Long live genuine democracy!