Major decisions by the new Inspector General (IG) of Malawi Police Service Loti Dzonzi can be debatable as his appointment has not been confirmed by Parliament as per legal requirement, an expert has said.
Chancellor College associate professor of law Edge Kanyongolo on Wednesday said government can, however, validate Dzonziâ€™s appointment by fast-tracking his confirmation as his current mandate is limited and debatable.
Immediately after assuming the presidency on April 8 2012, President Joyce Banda replaced Peter Mukhito with Dzonzi, a long-time serving police commissioner.
Section 154 of the Constitution says: â€œ1. There shall be an Inspector General of Police who shall be the Head of the Malawi Police [Service] whose office shall be a public office and also shall be accountable to the Minister responsible for the Police and whose office shall be a public office.
â€œ2. The Inspector General of Police shall be appointed by the President and confirmed by the National Assembly by a majority of the members present and voting, but the Public Appointments Committee may at any time inquire as to the competence of the person so appointed to carry out the duties of that office and as to such other questions as may have direct bearing on the performance of the duties of that office.â€
Kanyongolo played down fears that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which has been reduced to an opposition party, can block the appointment, arguing Dzonzi is a qualified police officer.
He said Dzonzi can only make administrative decisions as the most senior officerâ€”as he is only a designate until Parliament approves the presidential appointment.
Said Kanyongolo: “In my opinion, the appointee cannot exercise the full powers of an Inspector General until he is confirmed by the National Assembly.
“The bindingness of such decisions is debatable. In practice, though, they are likely to be treated as â€˜voidableâ€™; that is, binding until they are declared invalid by a court. However, administrative decisions that he makes merely as the current most senior officer in the service will be fully binding.”
According to Kanyongolo, Dzonzi cannot perform duties that only an IG can doâ€”such as serving or nominating his representative to serve as a member of the Police Service Commission.
Said Kanyongolo: “On the other hand, he can perform ceremonial duties in his capacity as the Inspector General-designate. The way out of these legal uncertainties is to fast-track the confirmation process. This, and similar challenges, point to a need for an urgent meeting of the National Assembly.
“I do not see them [DPP MPs] blocking the appointment of a long-serving senior police officer who appears to enjoy widespread public support and confidence.
“Judging from their recent so-called pledges of loyalty and support to the President, many DPP MPs may also be reluctant to oppose the Presidentâ€™s choice of IG.â€
Dzonzi has worked for the police from 1987 and has risen through the ranks and at the time of his current appointment, he was serving as commissioner of police responsible for headquarters administration.
He holds a Masterâ€™s degree in Business Administration besides a Bachelor of Arts Humanities obtained from the University of Malawi, Chancellor College, among other qualifications.
Mary Nangwale, Malawiâ€™s first female IG-designate, was blocked by Parliament when the late president Bingu wa Mutharika presented her to the then opposition-dominated House.
Despite a public outcry against Parliamentâ€™s move, the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld the decision and the late Mutharika had to replace her with Oliver Kumbambe.