Despite issuing a circular advising civil servants wishing to indulge in politics to first resign, Chief Secretary to Government has not cracked the whip on chief director responsible for safe motherhood and maternal health, Chimwemwe Chipungu, who doubles as DPP organising secretary.
In June this year, the head of the civil service, Lloyd Muhara, issued a memo to all heads of government institutions advising civil servants wishing to contest for political office to resign before doing so.
“Section 193 of the Constitution provides for the independence and neutrality of the public service. Furthermore, it is a misconduct for a public servant to engage in political activities as provided in Regulation 1:201 (24) of the Malawi Public Service Regulation. I, therefore, wish to advise those public servants that wish to run for political office to first resign from their public service position, or retire if they qualify, prior to embarking on their political campaign. Including participation in primary elections,” read the letter from Muhara.
But efforts to talk to Muhara on why he is not enforcing his directive proved futile as he could not pick our calls while Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) chief director Cliff Chiunda had not responded to our questionnaire submitted over a fortnight ago.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), who wrote the Chief Secretary in June demanding action on all civil servants vying for political office, said they are taking the matter to court.
“We wrote the letter after noticing that a number of civil servants were vying for political office and the response we got was a memo from Chief Secretary to all government institutions asking them not to indulge in politics. But with the evidence we have, like that of Chipungu, we have instructed our lawyers to commence legal proceedings. This is an outright violation of the law and we must not tolerate it because someone is from the ruling party,” said Gift Trapence, HRDC vice-chairperson.
Chipungu vied for the position of national organising secretary during the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) convention last July while his deputy at Safe Motherhood and Maternal Health, Clement Mwale, lost to Grezelder Jeffrey on the position of secretary general at the convention, and is still serving. Party (DPP) convention last
Mwale is deputy director responsible for training in the Ministry of Health under the Safe Motherhood and Maternal Health Initiative.
A legal expert has since called for legal action against controlling officers in government for failure to act on what is a direct infringement of the law.
Despite the clear pronouncement of the law and the OPC memo, Chipungu and Mwale remain in office days after participating at the DPP convention.
Prior to the convention, Chipungu told Nation on Sunday that he would resign if he were to compete for any position at the ruling party’s elective indaba which took place in Blantyre from July 1-3, 2018.
But when asked why he is still serving in government when he is also a NEC member of the ruling party, Chipungu referred Nation on Sunday to the Attorney General as the one who can explain what the law says about his situation.
When contacted, Attorney General Charles Mhango said he needed to consult with the Chief Secretary before responding and promised to do so later. But he did not respond to several of our calls and messages on the same issue.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango said the ministry is waiting for direction from the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) on the way forward.
Apart from holding a NEC position, Chipungu has come out in the open to contest for a parliamentary seat for Thyolo South West Constituency. [At one time] His WhatsApp display picture showed his poster as a candidate for Thyolo South West.
In a separate interview, Mwale said he had not contravened any law because he lost the position he wanted at the convention.
Legal expert Chrispin Sibande has faulted controlling officers at the Ministry of Health for failing to act, saying their inaction calls for legal or disciplinary action.
But Spokesperson for the Civil Service Commission James Mpando said the two officers in question were above the jurisdiction of their office.