President Lazarus Chakwera will today be installed as Chancellor of the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) in a move that sharply contradicts his earlier pledge to relinquish such ceremonial powers.
During his first appearance in Parliament on September 10 2020 to answer questions from legislators, the President said the ceremonial power to preside over public universities as Chancellor is a remnant of a bygone era.
Said Chakwera: “In this new century where our goal is to increase the number of public universities and establish them as bastions of free thought, academic administrators must be fully empowered to run our universities. Each of these changes is unprecedented, but needed, nonetheless.”
Luanar, which is one of the country’s four functional public universities, is this morning conferring the honour on the President at its graduation ceremony set for Bingu International Convention Centre (Bicc) in Lilongwe, according to a statement issued yesterday by Secretary to the President and Cabinet Zangazanga Chikhosi.
The statement from the Office of the President and Cabinet also said Chakwera will after being installed Chancellor award certificates, diplomas and degrees at Luanar’s Fourth Congregation.
When asked to balance the President’s promises and the reality on the ground, presidential press secretary Brian Banda said in a telephone interview yesterday that what Chakwera said did not mean he would not be Chancellor. He said the President is open for a discussion on the matter.
He said: “In that statement [Chakwera’s speech], he is not saying he isn’t going to be Chancellor, but that he is ready to relinquish such powers. There are many powers actually the President is ready to relinquish, not only that.
“But these things cannot happen overnight. They also need to go to Parliament where they can be discussed. But in the absence of such discussions taking place in Parliament, the students on the other hand need to graduate.”
Banda said as things stand now, the President has to allow Parliament in its mandate to act on such to ensure adherence to the law.
Commenting on Chakwera’s earlier sentiments on relinquishing such powers in an earlier interview, private practice lawyer Kamudoni Nyasulu hailed the President and urged the need to also free governance institutions.
He said there were three elements that define and assure integrity and effectiveness of the institutions, namely tenure, mandate and their oversight or mechanisms designed to supervise or monitor the implementation of their mandate.
Besides Luanar, other public universities are Mzuzu University, Malawi University of Science and Technology and the University of Malawi (Unima), the oldest with four constituent colleges—Chancellor College, The Polytechnic, College of Medicine (CoM) and Kamuzu College of Nursing (KCN).
The Polytechnic is set to be delinked to be a standalone university as are CoM and KCN which will also merge into one university.
Inkosi M’mbelwa University in Mzimba, formerly Mombera University, is another upcoming tertiary education institution initiated during the administration of Democratic Progressive Party.
Historically, Presidents have been ceremonial heads of public universities.
The Unima Act of 1998 in Section 13(23) states that the Chancellor of the university will be the Head of State while Section 13 (3) also gives powers to the President to appoint another person as Chancellor in consultation with the University Council.