Vera Chirwa: On Constitution of Malawi, new era

Malawi has clocked 50 years of independence. Every Malawian is looking forward to Jubilee Celebrations on July 6 2014 when the new government has just been ushered in at the end of May 2014. The road to the jubilee year was not rosy, there were ups and downs. Thanks to our Almighty God who did not desert us, but overcame for us each problem as it came up. As a nation, we ought to have learnt a lot from those problems and do better as we start a new era.

We have a new President, new parliamentarians and councillors and soon we will have a new Cabinet. We, people of Malawi, are looking forward to the new government that will deliver its services by following the Republican Constitution to the letter, a government that will follow constitutional principles of good governance, rule of law, independence of the Judiciary, human rights and separation of powers.

I would urge all leaders forming the new government to acquaint themselves with our Constitution, especially chapters one to four.

Sovereignty of the country is in the people of Malawi and therefore, everything should be done in the interest of Malawians. Chapter III sets out fundamental principles of the Constitution of Malawi. Section 12, provides that all legal fundamental principles derive from the people of Malawi and shall be exercised in accordance with the Constitution solely to serve and protect the interest of the people of Malawi.

This means that the President and all leaders in government are not bosses but servants of the people of Malawi, they hold their offices in trust for the people of Malawi. Therefore, they must rule over or govern them with the authority from the people by, for example, formulating policies which are in the interest of Malawians and also consulting them.

For instance, before policies or laws are passed, the Executive and Parliament must consult the people of Malawi and be satisfied that what they are about to pass is in the interest of Malawians. The President and his or her team can maintain this trust through open accountable and transparent government and informed democratic choices.

Section 12 (2) requires that the State should recognise and protect fundamental human rights and “afford full protection to rights and views of all individual groups and minorities whether or not they are entitled to vote”. In other words they must respect the views of the people and their fundamental rights.

Therefore, the new government should strive to govern according to the principles laid in our Constitution, thus making a difference with previous governments in those areas where they fell short.

The new government must observe and effect the principle of separation of powers enshrined in Sections VII, VIII and IX of the Constitution. Section 7 of the Constitution provides that the Executive shall be responsible for the initial policies and for the implementation of all laws which express wishes of the people of Malawi and which promote the principles of the Constitution.

Section 8 of the Constitution provides that when enacting laws, the Legislature shall reflect in its deliberations the interest of all the people of Malawi and shall further the values explicit or implicit in this Constitution.

Section 9 of the Constitution provides that the Judiciary shall have the responsibility of interpreting, protecting and enforcing this Constitution and all laws in accordance with this Constitution in an independent and impartial manner with regard only to legally relevant fact and the prescriptions of law.

In previous governments we have seen members of the Judiciary appointed to head ministries or appointed to diplomatic missions. It is clear that the duty of the Executive is to formulate or make policies which are implemented by civil service; the Judiciary is there to judge or adjudicate and interpret the law, while the Legislature or Parliament is there to make laws. But this has not been adhered to, especially by the Executive, whose head is the President. We have seen the Executive interfering with the Legislature by, for example, influencing the Speaker in the course of his duties. I hope the new government will try its best to maintain the principle of separation of powers.

Malawians opted to change government from one party system to multi party system of democracy with the hope to improve governance. In some cases, there has been no change at all and in others the change has been for the worse.

In one party democracy, government and the party is one. The mind of the party is mind of the government. Whereas in a multi party democracy, government and the party governing are two separate entities. Therefore, the government in power must strive to ensure that when it is performing government matters, they are government matters involving all Malawians regardless of their political affiliations. Therefore, for instance, its party uniform should not be worn at government functions for that prejudices other people to attend. Those colours should be worn when purely party meetings are held. During President Kamuzu Banda era, party uniform was worn at both government and party meetings because it was one party State.

Moreover, utterances at public meetings which indirectly or directly give impression that government will bring development only to party members must stop. The new government would do well if it discourages its members from wearing party uniforms to development rallies. I would also remind party leaders that campaign stops 48 hours before elections. When a new government is formed, everyone must think of building Malawi. Political leaders must come together and help government with ideas which will contribute to the development of our country. Some good ideas, for example, are those which came up during the presidential debates before elections.

Today, we are talking of Cashgate because the account which was meant for the one party system and catered for both government and the party was maintained during multiparty system of government. Hence, governments used it for government services and party services. This was not right. That is taxpayers’ money which is meant to cater for government services, not for the party in power. The party should have its own account fed and run by its own party members. For example, in countries such as Great Britain and United States of America, there is strict separation between party and government matters, which have their own separate accounts and auditors. Note that if the ruling party is using government money, it is using the people’s money (tax).

We are starting a new era on July 7 and things done wrongly must be corrected.

Civil Service

The Executive has messed up the civil service. Civil servants do not change with the change of governments. Our colonial masters did not interfere with heads of ministries. Principal secretaries remained in their ministries whether government changed or not. This was to ensure continuation of government work. But we have, during previous governments, experienced principal secretaries moved from one ministry to the other, whether he or she has the knowhow of that ministry or not. Another thing, sometimes politicians are appointed to head ministries. Just imagine, a person who has no knowledge of that department or ministry, say from ministry of education to mining ministry, can he or she perform well?

As we start a new era this year, the new formed government must follow things which were governed well and abandon those which were administered badly. Methods of governance must change for the better.

Lastly, it had been a tendency by churches, especially during the last two governments to invite presidents to their functions or religious gatherings mainly for raising funds for the churches. When we are in the presence of God, we humble ourselves before Him, whether king or slave. Take example of kings of Israel, e.g. King David always humbled himself before God and here in Malawi, President Kamuzu Banda did that. When he was asked by the clergy to read the Bible, he humbly walked to the front, read the text, once he had finished, humbly went back to his seat and sat down quietly. But a culture has risen during multiparty democracy whereby the clergy, like in political party meetings, address the President and other eminent people first before starting prayers or services. So these take priority before the Almighty God. When a president is asked to read a text in the Bible or Quran, he walks to the front and either at the beginning or at the end of reading the Word of God, he addresses the congregation on something. Is this respect to our Lord God? If a president has something to say other than the Word of God, arrange some platform for him or her outside the religious gathering. I remember the clergy did this for former president Muluzi at Livingstonia Mission. I hope the new President will not allow himself or herself to be glorified in church before God. It is wrong.

Conclusion

I hope the new President will stand above party matters when performing government duties. Secondly, the President should discourage his supporters from wearing party colours to government functions which include public meetings. Party colours should be reserved for party meetings.

I urge the President and his team once again to acquaint themselves with the contents of our Republican Constitution for them to discharge good governance. May God continue blessing our beloved country, Malawi.

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