Editorial: Urgent Malawi constitutional review now!

A couple of weeks ago, Ralph Kasambara (Attorney General and Justice Minister), proposed a constitutional amendment that would empower the State President to hire and/or fire a vice President. There were some concerns from certain quarters, granted the suspicions that some of the citizenry have towards Kasambara’s ideological agendum, especially when he assumes political power. Memories are still fresh with his ‘constructive resignation’ phenomena in relation to one Dr. Cassim Chilumpha during the late Bingu wa  Mutharika’s first term of office.

We at the Nyasa Times, want to build on Kasambara’s observation, despite some public distrust of his political philosophies. We want to believe that there is something good about his suggestions.

 Nyasa Times is calling on all civil society institutions and public intellectuals, politicians and all citizens to pressure the government to organize an urgent constitutional review, because we believe that central to our politics in the country, are six crucial problems:

  • Political representatives who do not give a damn about their constituents.
  • The structural and legal constraints that prevent constituents from holding their representatives accountable
  • The high costs of correcting political errors during political terms
  • The necropolitical (Godly) power that our political leaders, especially the president hold.
  • The over-centralisation of political decision-making in the Capital Hill
  • The ethnic character of policy design and implementation in the country.

A very good example is the recent public declaration by Her Excellency Mrs Joyce Banda in which she fantasized that holding 40+by-elections is too expensive for Malawi, despite a constitutional requirement to do so in light of the recent floor crossings.

For Nyasa Times, the constitution is not conditional, but unfortunately, has become a useless document that our respective presidents, cabinet members and members of parliament can prostitute around with.

Sad still is that the UnduLe Mwakasunguras, the Reverend Semberekas, the Gift Trapences, the Edge Kanyongolos, the Billy Mayayas or the Benedict Kondowes who made international political noise against the late Mutharika’s alleged cases of disrespect for the constitution, have all been muted.

We at the Nyasa  Times lament such selective political activism.

There is a serious constitutional crisis facing the country at the moment. What  we,  believe, is that even if Section 65 is implemented today (and it must), we will still have the six aforementioned political problems. It is for this reason that, we are calling for an urgent constitutional review in the country before the 2014 general elections to address the following critical issues:

That, as propounded by Kasambara, and shared by many Malawians we have talked to, the State President should be elected alone, and should have the powers to hire and fire a deputy. The question that Malawians need to ask is, do we really need the office of the VP, and could we allocate that office’s budget to other pressing development needs?

Instituting a two-term limit for members of parliament. A couple of years ago, there was an article on Nyasa Times that propounded that we Malawians think about establishing a two term limit for MPs, a demand that seems to make sense in light of the increasing political prostitution of our representatives. A wonderful case is John Tembo, who constitutionally is the Leader of Opposition, but in our eyes, he has just joined the people’s Party.

The creative way to implement Section 65 without incurring financial costs on the part of the taxpayer. It is a public fact that our MPs will continue to prostitute. Granted the figure of MK5 billion that has been suggested as the amount required for holding by-elections, could we, like in South Africa, constitutionally empower political parties to appoint a replacement MP once their MP has crossed floors (instead of holding by-elections)?

Reducing the powers of the President, who functions and behaves like God himself/herself. Our thinking is that the President should not have the power to appoint boards of public institutions, that his/her powers should be mediated by the parliamentary committees, and that he/she should be impeachable.

Experimenting with regional implementation of development policies. Granted the centralization of managing the country, we would like to have the country experiment with regional (not federal) implementation of certain policies in health, education and agriculture – something we believe, would create competition among the various regions in developing their constituents.

We know calling for a constitutional review will ruffle some political feathers. Yet, we know that democracy is a process, and we will be a Habermasean public sphere that will allow us to represent the oppressed in imagining a new and democratic Malawi, one in which the constitution becomes the supreme law of the land.

Nyasa Times pledge to  continue to be an independent and objective observer in Malawi’s democracy project. We will be your eyes and ears, as those that are supposed to speak for us seem to have become deaf and blind, politically speaking.

 Nyasa Times will not align herself with any political ideologies, if Malawi’s political parties have any.

We will serve you with excellence and diligence.

Right now, we are calling for an urgent constitutional review.

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