President Lazarus Chakwera has said he has already taken administrative steps to reduce presidential powers, allaying fears that he might backtrack on the promise as did his predecessor.
Despite pledging to reduce his presidential powers in a campaign promise of 2014, his predecessor Peter Mutharika changed tune when he assumed office after his campaign victory and never implemented the reforms.
But Chakwera’s spokesperson Sean Kampondeni said in a response to a questionnaire yesterday that Chakwera has already taken administrative steps in reducing presidential powers, ending the practice of interfering in the work of such institutions.
He said such institutions include Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and Malawi Police Service to enable them to operate freely and independently to fulfill their constitutional mandate.
“Within this category would also fall the President’s commitment to come before Parliament to answer questions, as is already required by the Constitution.
“Other reductions of powers are political, such as the President’s fulfillment of his campaign promise to allow the office of the Vice-President to be fully functional with its own ministries that it oversees,” Kampondeni said.
Chakwera’s spokesperson said what are left are reductions of powers that are legislative and constitutional, adding the President was working with the Ministry of Justice on his proposed legislative and constitutional amendments to give more power to governance institutions.
Apart from the administrative, political, and legislative changes, Kampondeni said, Chakwera is also intending to pursue cultural and behavioural changes, which have to do with changing the mindset and attitude of citizens towards the first citizens.
“When he stated during the campaign that the culture of veneration and handclapping that goes on around presidents needs to stop, he meant it, and he has every intention of challenging that behavior wherever it emerges.
“Changing a mindset that is rooted in a history spanning six decades and a culture going back further still is not something that can be done by a schedule. It is a project that must be ongoing, but whose work must begin yesterday,” he said.
The presidential spokesperson said as for the work of deconstructing the presidency’s powers, it may take up to a year to complete that process, which he said will itself be no small feat, given that the status quo has been maintained for 26 years.
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.
Some presidential powers governance activists have demanded to have them reduced is the President’s authority to appoint heads of some institutions such as ACB, Malawi Defence Force, Malawi Police Service, among others.