The Malawi Law Commission (MLC) has recommended the establishment of a Citizenship Board to reduce the powers of the minister through the Immigration Department to revoke or restore a Malawian’s citizenship.
The recommendation is contained in a final review paper on the Malawi Citizenship Act of 1966. The paper was presented to stakeholders at a national conference in Lilongwe on Thursday.
MLC said it was about to finalise the review of the 1966 Citizenship Act which both the government and the commission say is not in tandem with the prevailing developments in the human rights and freedom contexts.
The commission said if the Citizenship Board becomes responsible for the renunciation and restoration of citizenship, bias will be removed, especially in view of the fact that the ministerial position is political.
Further, the commission also recommended that the minister “should be given specific powers to deal with issues concerning crimes against humanity”. These crimes include terrorism, human trafficking, genocide and ethnic hatred, as well as cleansing, which have taken centre stage in the international criminal law discourse.
Special Law Commission (SLC) on the Review of the Citizenship Act chairperson, Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Rezine Mzikamanda argued that many changes have taken place regarding human rights and freedoms spheres, noting that the law governing citizenship is still outdated.
He said that as a member State of the African Union and the United Nations, Malawi ratified various international instruments touching on citizenship-related matters; hence, the need to make some of the changes in the Act so that the legal framework should be consistent with global and regional statutes.
Said Mzikamanda: “The developments in the area of citizenship law point to the fact that the Act is in some respect outdated and not in tandem with present national democratic and social realities as well as with prevailing international standards. It does not reflect on the changes that have occurred regarding equality both at national and international levels. So, some of the recommendations are necessary.”
The Malawi Citizenship Act was enacted on July 6 1966. It predates the 1994 Constitution and was founded on principles of the repealed 1966 Republican Constitution.
Mzikamanda said since the review of the Act started in February 2016, the Special Law Commission has held several commission meetings to deliberate on issues pertaining to the Act under review, an exercise which has been the basis for recommendations.
MLC chairperson Rosemary Kanyuka said the commission engaged in substantive consultations at various levels and different stages of the law reform process because it values principles of transparency, accountability, independence and public participation in executing its constitutional mandate.
In an interview later, Minister of Homeland Security Nicholas Dausi noted that the development is important because there is a need to modernise the law to suit prevailing demands on citizenship.