The call by some government-sponsored civil society groups for Saulos Klaus Chilima (SKC) to resign as State Vice-President because he formed the United Transformation Movement (UTM) which is fighting President Peter Mutharika (APM) for the presidency lacks merits. The two are not related. In addition, the argument is one-sided and the CSOs are themselves double-faced and lack the moral higher ground to champion such a cause.
To start with, the position of Vice-President is an elected one just like the State Presidency. SKC was elected by Malawians as Vice-President together with APM. That is why once in office the State President cannot dismiss him. This is because the position of Vice-President is ring fenced by the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi. And like APM, apart from voluntary resignation, incapacitation and death only Parliament—through impeachment—can the Vice-Presidency fall vacant. If SKC is of the view that he is better placed to contribute towards the development of the country as Vice-President or as President and as opposed to outside it, and that he stands a better chance to ascend to the presidency in his current position then, he should stay put. Besides, if the Presidency was to fall vacant now, Constitutional order would require that SKC and nobody else takes over. Voices against him maintaining his position as VP are just political.
There are also precedents. When former vice-president Justin Malewezi was contesting for the presidency against Bakili Muluzi’s open term and third term bid, Malewezi did not resign as Vice-President. The Constitution allowed him to remain Vice-President. When former president Bingu wa Mutharika resigned from the governing United Democratic Front (UDF) in 2005 the party on whose ticket he became president and formed his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), he did not resign as State President of Malawi.
Additionally, when former president Joyce Banda was expelled from the governing DPP and formed the Peoples’ Party (PP) in 2011 she remained the State vice-president even if she was excluded from Cabinet meetings. The framers of the Republican Constitution must have envisaged a situation where a vice-president would fall from grace with the ruling party and State President and sometimes on flimsy or political reasons and not for the benefit of Malawians. That is why they ensured the Vice-Presidency is protected by the Constitution.
If anything, between Chilima and APM it is the latter who does not deserve to be at the helm of this country for betraying the people’s trust and for failing on accountability and good governance and corruption. And to say that corruption has only gotten worse is an understatement. APM has presided over the most corrupt government. On his watch, corruption has reached unprecedented levels and the country has slipped on the corruption perception index to an all time low as attested by corruption watchdog Transparency International.
Among other things, APM was voted into office on the promise that he would relinquish some presidential powers. These included the appointment and removal of senior public positions such as 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, Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) Director General, as well as leaders of other accountability institutions. The DPP manifesto which propelled APM to power in 2014 stated that appointments of all these positions would be on merit through a special public appointments committee. But after he assumed the reins of power, APM has reneged on all these promises.
APM, who authored an academic paper which he presented at the Constitutional Conference of 1995 and renewed it prior to the 2014 polls on appointments and removal of senior government positions, has failed to honour any of these pledges. So if anything, if these CSOs who are known to be sponsored by government are serious on issues of accountability and good governance, before calling on SKC to resign as Vice-President, they should also be asking APM to do the same for betrayal of the people’s trust. These CSOs are doubled faced.