At least 36 500 voters from Mzuzu City Constituency have petitioned their legislator Leonard Njikho (Democratic Progressive Party-DPP) to move a motion in Parliament for impeachment of President Peter Mutharika due to, among others, “gross incompetence”.
They also accuse the President of defying a court order relating to fired Agriculture Minister George Chaponda, criminal negligence, placing a moratorium on homosexuality and influencing arrests of Malawi Congress Party legislators over treason allegations.
But University of Malawi constitutional law expert Edge Kanyongolo says the group has a hurdle to demonstrate that whatever mistakes Mutharika has made are a serious violation of the law and warrant impeachment.
In the petition, the people, led by co-chairpersons Andrew Longwe and Sandra Kamanga argue that Mutharika deliberately sent Chaponda to Germany on official duties when he knew that the beleaguered ex-minister was gagged by a court order.
“Both Dr Chaponda and President Mutharika defied that injunction and disobeyed the court order, by one, the President allowing Dr Chaponda to travel to Germany in his capacity as Minister of Agriculture and the minister himself travelling to Germany while being fully aware of the court order.
“President Mutharika has proven time and again to be a negligent President as evidenced by his failure to admit about the declining healthcare sector and system, including the dilapidation of public health facilities.”
The petitioners, who have copied Speaker of the National Assembly Richard Msowoya, further accuse Mutharika of “gross incompetence”, saying the President has put the country on auto-pilot.
This, they argue, is evidenced by not being visible and commenting on crucial issues affecting Malawians like the case of Chaponda and the Maizegate.
They also claim that the State has been captured by powerful individuals who appear to be manipulating and running the President’s actions, thereby putting Malawians at risk.
“President Peter Mutharika unilaterally and illegally placed a moratorium on certain laws of the Republic such as the homosexuality laws without any such powers being given to him in any written law of the Republic.
“This is, but one example of a totally unacceptable, illegal, and unjustifiable usurping of powers [both from the Legislature and the Judiciary] on an issue which will affect all Malawians and they ought to have a say,” they add.
In an interview, Longwe said Njikho has up to March 4 2017 to fulfil this task, failing which, they will take him to court for failing to fulfil the wishes of his constituents.
On his part, Njikho described the matter as sensitive, and that he would seek legal opinion before taking any step. He wondered why his constituents had not briefed him on the matter before issuing the petition.
“I am surprised; at least they could have informed me about the matter before this petition. When I get it, I will look at its content and consult legal minds because this is a very sensitive matter,” he said.
DPP spokesperson Francis Kasaila said the party will comment when the motion is presented in Parliament.
“We will not comment on speculation, let it come to Parliament and will comment thereafter,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kanyongolo has said the petitioners have to prove that the issues being queried are a serious violation of the Constitution.
“I will have to seriously look at the petition, but still, the Constitution provides grounds for impeachment. They have to demonstrate that the President has done that because the President is not impeached on any mistake made,” he said.
Section 86 (2a) of the Constitution of Malawi states that indictment and conviction by impeachment shall only be on the grounds of serious violation of the Constitution or serious breach of the written laws of the Republic that either occurred or came to light during the term of office of the President or the First Vice-President.