Malawi Law Society (MLS) and a legal expert have described as illegal President Lazarus Chakwera’s appointments of Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) commissioner general and his deputies, as well as deputy Inspector General (IG) of Police.
According to the law, the MRA commissioner general and a deputy are supposed to be appointed by a board while the police deputy IG is supposed to be appointed by the Malawi Police Service Commission.
On Wednesday Chief Secretary to Government Zangazanga Chikhosi announced the appointment of John Bizwick as MRA Commissioner General and his deputies; Henry Ngutwa responsible for revenue and Agness Katsonga responsible for administration. Chakwera also appointed Demuster Chigwenembe as deputy Police IG responsible for operations.
In a written response yesterday, MLS honorary secretary Martha Kaukonde said the appointments lack basis and would have no effect.
She said: “Where it is self-evident with regard to the legal provisions, the appointments would then be illegal and would have no legal effect if they are done contrary to the legal provisions you refer to.”
Chakwera has followed in the footsteps of his predecessors who have appointed Police deputy IGs when such powers are vested in the hands of the Police Service Commission.
Kaukonde observed that the legality of current appointments does not depend on practice.
“They depend on law. Even if previous Presidents did something which was unlawful but was not questioned, that does not mean the illegality is legalised or the law has changed based on those acts,” she said.
When contacted, Police Service Commission chairperson Justice Charles Mkandawire declined to comment.
But a member of the commission, who spoke on condition of anonymity, wrongly advised to make such an appointment as such mandate was with the commission.”said: “The President was
Chigwenembe’s appointment contravenes Section 14 (a) (1) of Malawi Police Act which states that the Police Service Commission, as conferred on it by the Constitution, appoints persons to hold or act in office in the police service other than that of the IG.
The Constitution, under Section 154 (2), only gives the President the mandate to appoint the Inspector General of Police who is to be confirmed by Parliament. The supreme law of the land is silent on appointment of deputy IG.
On the other hand, Section 17 (1&2) of the MRA Act empowers the board to appoint the Commissioner General with approval from the minister and the same law empowers the board to appoint deputy commissioners.
The Act does not indicate the existence of a second deputy commissioner general.
Chakwera earlier dissolved boards for 67 parastatals within days of being sworn-in as the country’s President.
Meanwhile, University of Cape Town law professor Danwood Chirwa said the President must retract such appointments as he has acted unlawfully.
He said: “The independence of statutory corporations is one of the biggest problems in the country. There has been too much political interference in the workings of these corporations, primarily because they are seen as means of distributing patronage.
“This is the single most prominent factor that accounts for the poor performance of these entities.”