Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu has defended President Peter Mutharika’s refusal to appear before Parliament to answer questions, arguing that by delegating Cabinet ministers the President was acting within the law.
Mutharika was expected, in accordance with the Constitution, to appear before Parliament yesterday to answer questions which four members of Parliament (MPs) forwarded to him through the Office of the Speaker.
However, the President snubbed the requirement and instead delegated line ministers to handle the questions which came from leader of opposition and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera, Mzimba South-West MP Khumbo Kachali (People’s Party-PP), Kamlepo Kalua (Rumphi East, PP) and MCP’s Everson Makowa Banda of Nkhotakota South East.
But reacting to The Nation’s story that quoted the Speaker’s announcement that the President had refused to appear before Parliament, Tembenu said while the Constitution was clear on certain specific powers and functions which can only be exercised by the President alone, it does not restrict him from delegating some of the functions.
While describing as “grossly misleading” interpreting the President’s delegation of the ministers as refusal to appear before Parliament, Tembenu said in the case of the questions it was clear the responses to them could best be provided by the line ministers.
He said: “The President was, therefore, perfectly entitled to delegate to the said ministers, and in doing so, he was acting within law.”
Tembenu quotes Section 89(6) of the Constitution which states that “the powers and functions of the President shall be exercised by him or her personally or by a member of the Cabinet or by a Government official to whom the President has delegated such power in writing.”