Veteran politician and former cabinet minister Brown James Mpinjanjira popularly referred to as BJ has said the country’s constitution should be amended to ensure the Head of State has powers to fire the deputy president.
In the current form of the Constitution, the President and commander-in-chief of the Malawi defence force and the Malawi police service, cannot sack the vice-president who is elected with him as runningmate in elections.
But Mpinganjira said such a law should be changed so that the President can be given prerogatrive powers to sack his deputy the way it pleases him/her to hire and fire Cabinet ministers.
“Lets allow the president to fire vice president,” Mpinganjira said on Times TV.
Mpinganjira who served on numerous ministerial positions from the United Democratic Front (UDF) regime, People’s Party (PP) where his final position was Minister of Information in the two years that PP ruled, noted that since the democratic dispensation in 1993, the President and his or her Vice have ended up in frosty relationships.
Former president Bakili Muluzi may have retained Justin Malewezi on the United Democratic Front ticket in 1999 after his first term, but the two fell out at the twilight of the second term when Muluzi wanted to elongate his time as State President, thwarting his deputy’s own ambitions.
Muluzi’s successor, the late Bingu wa Mutharika, never gelled with his vice, Cassim Chilumpha and dropped him for Joyce Banda in his 2009 re-election bid, but the romance did not last as Bingu lost confidence in her while she was Vice President.
When Banda became president after Bingu’s death in 2012, she hand-picked Khumbo Kachali as her Vice President only to dump him for Sosten Gwengwe as her running mate in 2014 with whom she lost to Mutharika.
Currently, vice-president Saulos Chilima resigned from the rulig ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) accusing it of “embarssing corruption” and practising nepotism.
The Malawi Constitution, in Section 80(3), stipulates that every presidential candidate, at the time of his/her nomination, must declare who shall be his/her first vice-president in the event he/she is elected. As may be apparent, this entails that a successful presidential candidate and his/her first vice-president are both elected by the citizenry through direct, universal and equal suffrage.
It is, in part, because both the president and the first vice-president are directly elected by the citizenry that the president cannot unilaterally remove a sitting first vice-president from office.
In other countries, South Africa, for example, the vice-president is appointed by the president and this has significant repercussions on the vice-president’s tenure of office.
The electoral system ensures that, in the ordinary course of events, Malawi has a president and first vice-president that are elected together.
But Mpinganjira said this should change.
However, commentators say there should not water down the Constitution to serve narrow interest, saying the President or Vice President can be removed, the principal mechanism being impeachment if there is serious violation of the Constitution.
“ We must keep striving towards the ideal of constitutionalism. The responsibility for ensuring the entrenchment of constitutionalism lies with all Malawians,” said Dr. Mwiza Nkhata, law lecturer at Chancellor College.
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