President Lazarus Chakwera has vowed that he will continue to attend His Excellency’s Question Time (HEQs) style-session in Parliament throughout his presidency as provided in the Constitution.
The law provides for Question Time for the President, but since the adoption of the new Constitution in 1994, only the first president in the multiparty era, Bakili Muluzi, during his first term from 1994 to 1999 answered questions in Parliament.
“I am not the first to do this, former president Dr Bakili Muluzi was the first to do this. As I recall it was done so briefly. It was wayback in the 90’s before the DPP drained the UDF. It is my intent to entrench this practice throughout my presidency,” said Chakwera on Thursday.
Muluzi’s successor, Bingu wa Mutharika (deceased) vehemently refused to appear before Parliament to fulfill the constitutional requirement.
President Joyce Banda, who was Bingu’s estranged vice-president but ascended to the presidency in line with constitutional order in April 2012 following Bingu’s death, never attempted to appear before Parliament as did her successor Peter Mutharika who ruled the country from 2014.
In Section 89(4), the Constitution also provides that “the President shall be called to Parliament to answer questions at such times as may be prescribed by the Standing Orders of Parliament or on a motion of the National Assembly or Senate”.
Chakwera—who between 2014 and 2019 served as Lilongwe North East legislator and Leader of Opposition in Parliament— said he will three times appear before the current Session of Parliament to answer questions from legislators.
His appearance fulfilled a pledge he made on the campaign trail and during his inauguration that he would respect the rule of law.
The questions tackled the contentious risk allowances for public school teachers as schools partially reopen after closing in March as a preventive measure for Covid-19, planned construction of official residences for MPs, plans to open a diplomatic mission in Jerusalem, Israel, gender, agriculture and environment.
Vice-President Saulos Chilima was also in attendance and watched his boss take questions from the legislators.