Dictators are mostly hated because of excessive powers heaped on them. With such powers no one has any right to say something against them or their decisions. In fact, one of the reasons Malawians wanted a multiparty democracy was to have a leader with few necessary powers only. So far seen not to have been the case.
Probably, every President might have been thinking that if they have less powers it would mean giving a change to every Malawian to be in control in whatever way. Some of the past presidents used to talk about reducing their powers, especially during election campaigns. They just say this because this is what people want to hear. In reality, they enjoy having more powers, which are their protection.
Meanwhile, one of the strongest powers that the presidents have is the power of immunity. A President cannot be taken to court to answer charges while in office. With this in mind, the President can even delay to sign very important and urgent bills, already passed in Parliament. For example, the Access to Information (ATI) bill had to remain in President Mutharika’s office for a long time. People could not do anything apart from some demonstrations here and there which yielded nothing.
What was strange was that Mutharika knew it very well that the information people wanted was not government classified material, but ordinary information for public use. Therefore, it did not make much sense in failing to sign the bill. This habit of unnecessary delaying of bills and signing of other government documents affect progress in the country. This used to happen a lot during Mutharika’s era. In the same vain, the President could appoint unqualified people into very powerful positions where they could hardly perform. People could talk against such decisions, but due to immunity nothing more could be done. As a result, the country was run by unqualified people leading to failure.
During the process of fresh presidential in 2020, most Malawians might have been surprised by the letter from Mr Lloyd Muhara who was SPC to Chief Justice Nyirenda to force him into retirement. Though the President might have justified this move to most people, it was his tactic as at the time there were court cases and the Chief Justice was the one choosing judges to handle various election cases.
Finally, Nyirenda did not go as the procedure for retiring him was wrong. In relation to this there was recently a story in the media that Mutharika and Muhara have been punished by the court to pay for all the court expenses, after both were faulted for forcing Nyirenda to retire.
The other problem with the presidential immunity, once not checked can easily be abused. For example, a number of presidential aides to Mutharika are answering charges for mostly alleged corruption.
These people got excessively rich, which becomes very difficult to justify their salaries as civil servants. These people might have also had the assumption that being close to the President, who has the immunity, they can as well be protected.
If other people, including the relatives to the President, also use facilities designated to the President such as immunity and getting things on duty free this is tantamount to corruption and stealing. The government loses a lot of money in this way.
Meanwhile, both President Chakwera and Vice-President Saulos Chilima must check that people close to them should not behave as if they have the right to sue their facilities.
Lastly, President Chakwera needs to reduce some of the powers, such as not appointing Directors of Parastatals organisations. These can best be appointed by the boards which know better about the people they want to successfully run the organisation.