President must be accountable to voters—MLS


The Malawi Law Society (MLS) has added its voice to the issue of presidents turning down the opportunity to appear before Parliament to respond to questions saying a president must be accountable to ordinary Malawians and not ministers.

In the last meeting of Parliament, President Peter Mutharika turned down MPs’ requests for him to appear before Parliament and respond to questions posed by Malawi Congress Party president and opposition leader, Lazarus Chakwera, Mzimba South West legislator and former Vice-President Khumbo Kachali, Rumphi West representative Kamlepo Kalua and Nkhotakota South East legislator, Everson Makowa.

MLS Honorary Secretary, Khumbo Soko, said in an interview that the law cannot be faulted for the Presidents’ failure to appear before Parliament.


“I must say that there is nothing problematic with the law as it is now. It is perhaps our attitude to it that needs a bit of reforming,” said Soko.

When the Mutharika administration came under a barrage of criticism early this month, Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Samuel Tembenu, was quick to defend the President’s decision.

“While the Constitution is clear that there are certain specific powers and functions which can only be exercised by the President alone, it does not restrict the President from delegating some of those functions if he chooses to do so … The President was, therefore, perfectly entitled to delegate to the said ministers and, in doing so, he was acting within law,” Tembenu said in a press statement released on March 15.


However, while acknowledging that “it is correct that the black letter of the law allows the President to delegate his responsibility of appearing in the National Assembly to a (Cabinet) minister, Soko observed that the President is more accountable to the people than cabinet ministers.

“One must, however, not lose sight of the spirit of the Constitution; the scheme that it seeks to establish. Appearing before the National Assembly to answer questions is a form of accountability to the governed and, in furtherance of the ethos of the Constitution, it would be ideal if the President himself personally attended to that responsibility.

“Let us not lose sight of the fact that ministers are not elected by the people of Malawi. They are chosen by the President and it is to him that they account. Being directly elected by the people, it would be ideal if the President himself was the one accounting to the people’s representatives on how he is exercising stewardship of the affairs of the State,” said Soko.

Soko, therefore, said he did not understand why presidents seem unwilling to avail themselves before representatives of the people— MPs.

He suspected that one of the grounds for the reluctance could be that the country’s leaders were yet to embrace democratic ideals.

“It could be that there is something that some of us are missing about this simple but fundamental arrangement. Otherwise, I struggle to understand why it is such a monumental struggle for our presidents to simply show up and respond to questions in the National Assembly. A relic from our autocratic past, probably,” said Soko.

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