Political parties and analysts want President Peter Mutharika to fulfil the constitutional requirement to address Parliament and give an assessment of the state of the nation whose economy is falling off.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP), People’s Party (PP) and government Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) political bedfellow United Democratic Front (UDF) said in interviews yesterday government should not pretend and remain silent when the situation is worsening with each passing day.
In an interview yesterday, MCP president Lazarus Chakwera, who is also leader of opposition in Parliament, said the country was going through multiple crises and it was the President’s duty to address Parliament and give an assessment on how things are.
He said: “The President must give an honest assessment of the situation of the state of the nation. Constitutionally, he is required to address the Parliament and give an assessment as what the state of the nation is. I am not talking about him coming to Parliament to answer questions. It has nothing to do with whether I am summoning him. It is a constitutional requirement.”
PP acting president Uladi Mussa said it would be crucial for Mutharika to also make a statement on the maize situation and why State produce trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) has now turned into a full commercial entity.
He said: “We need to know how much maize has been bought and why is Admarc now fully commercial without considering the levels of suffering and poverty of rural Malawians. Maize at Admarc is more expensive now [at K12 000 per 50 kilogramme bag], and this is the first time such a thing has ever happened since independence.”
On his part, UDF spokesperson Ken Ndanga said each passing day Malawians are complaining because of the hard life they are experiencing and a detailed statement of hope would be crucial.
“As political parties, we are facing a lot of pressure from our people on the suffering they are experiencing. In all fairness ,Malawians are complaining about the poor delivery of public services and perhaps it is time government made a detailed statement that would give them hope,” he said.
Lawyer Justin Dzonzi said constitutionally Mutharika is obliged to appear before Parliament if there are any matters that need his attention.
He said: “Constitutionally, members of Parliament can summon the president to Parliament if there is business that requires his attention, so it’s power given to members of Parliament.”
In March this year, Chakwera demanded that Mutharika should appear before Parliament to respond to questions which some legislators, including Chakwera himself, posed to him.
However, the President refused to go to Parliament and instead delegated line ministers to tackle the questions although Section 89 (4) of the Constitution demands that the President appears before the august House to answer questions.
Under the Constitution, the President is expected to go to Parliament to undertake three functions, including delivery of the State of the Nation Address (Sona), report on policies of the previous year and also respond to questions from members of Parliament (MPs).
Minister of Justice and Constitutional affairs Samuel Tembenu described as “grossly misleading” interpretations that the President’s delegation of the ministers was refusal to appear before Parliament.
Since the dawn of plural politics, only first post-independence multi-party president Bakili Muluzi has appeared before Parliament to answer questions from MPs. His successors, the late Bingu wa Mutharika, Joyce Banda and incumbent Peter Mutharika have only delivered Sonas and opened Parliament. n