Debate has risen on whether presidential advisers are public servants, with a lawyer suggesting that they are whereas the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) thinks otherwise.
The debate comes after MEC disqualified Salima North West Constituency parliamentary candidate Jessie Kabwila of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and Professor John Chisi who wanted to contest as presidential candidate for Umodzi Party (UP). The duo was disqualified because they were still serving as public servants, according to MEC.
However, some of President Joyce Banda’s advisers such as Elias Wakuda Kamanga (Kasungu North East), the Reverend Mc Donald Sembereka (Mangochi Central) and the Reverend Malani Mtonga (Karonga South) were cleared to contest.
Kamanga is presidential adviser on communication and politics, Sembereka is adviser on civil society and Mtonga is adviser on religious affairs.
Besides the presidential advisers contesting on Banda’s governing People’s Party (PP), lawyer Chipiliro Mpinganjira, who works at the Administrator General’s office and Noria Kachale of Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) have also been approved by MEC to contest as MPs in Blantyre City Central and Blantyre Malabada constituencies, respectively.
MEC deputy chief elections officer Harris Potani said in an interview the commission was advised that the presidential advisers are not public servants.
He said: “We got legal opinion on the matter and we have been advised that they are not public servants.”
Potani said Mpinganjira’s issue has been referred to the Attorney General for legal opinion. He expressed ignorance about the case of Kachale.
But Mauya Msuku, labour law lecturer at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College in Zomba, has differed with MEC, saying as long as the presidential advisers draw salaries from the public purse, they are public servants.
He also argued that the President, who is at the top of civil and public servants, consults them when making a decision that is for civil and public servants/service.
Msuku admitted that some people might argue that presidential advisers are not public servants because they are not in the mainstream public service. However, he maintained that the question of whether they get monthly pay should be considered.
He said: “So, if they were just getting allowances, that would have been different, but they are getting monthly salaries which justify being public servants. It’s not a question of whether they have established positions, but whether they draw salaries or not.”
On Wednesday, Sembereka referred the matter to the employer whereas Kamanga said their contract is different from others in the public service.
Presidential advisers of former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika are challenging the termination of their contracts by the Banda administration.