Former minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Henry Phoya says the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) needs to do more homework before calling for a referendum in an effort to force President Bingu wa Mutharika out of office.
Speaking in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of PACâ€™s All-Inclusive Stakeholdersâ€™ Conference in Blantyre on Thursday, Phoya said while it is only the President who has the constitutional mandate to call for a referendum, Malawians can also demand the same.
The call for a referendum is one of the resolutions delegates to the PAC meeting came up with to force Mutharika to leave office because, according to the delegates, he has failed Malawians.
Said Phoya: â€œIt is only the President who can call for a referendum, but what would motivate the President to do that? That is the question we are not answering because if the country is calling for a referendum, then you could very well see the President calling for one.â€
He also said it would be debatable whether the majority of Malawians want the referendum.
Asked if the referendum was possible in Malawi, Phoya said: â€œLarge groups of people are saying the President has lost the mandate to govern. That is a very debatable question because it could turn out very well that it is not a majority view. How do you find out that this is the majority view?
â€œThe Constitution in Section 12 talks about the fact that the government can only rule if it still has the support of the people that it is governing. So, if other people are claiming that the support has been lost, you need to go back to the people and verify whether that is indeed the case.â€
However, he contradicted vice-chairperson of Human Rights Consultative Committee, Margaret Ali, on the framing of the question for the referendum. Ali said the question for the referendum would be asking Malawians whether they want the President to continue ruling or not.
But Phoya said: â€œYou cannot predetermine the question because usually, where referendums have been held, there would be a committee that would sit down and determine what would be a very clear-cut question because you do not want to confuse the people.â€
Constitutional law lecturer Dr. Edge Kanyongolo doubted if the President would allow a referendum to take place.
â€œUnder Section 89 of the Constitution, it is only the President who can call for a referendum. People can demand, advocate for it, but it is ultimately up to the President to decide,â€ Kanyongolo said.
But Ali said Mutharika â€œas a listening President as he calls himselfâ€ should honourably resign and if he does not, he should call for a referendum to ask Malawians if they still want him.
She said there would be a meeting with the President over the referendum call.
The PAC meeting, which begun on Wednesday, ended on Thursday with several resolutions, including asking the President to resign within 60 days if he fails to solve the problems the country is facing. Some of the problems are fuel and forex shortages and bad governance.