Despite the US Embassy in Lilongwe clearing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leader Peter Mutharika that he is not an American citizen,a legal expert Justin Dzonzi has said Mutharika candidacy for the president need to be challenged in a court of law basing on his holding US green card.
Dzonzi, Justice Link executive director, said the court needs to give interpretation on the matter, arguing that legally, the green card is the US permanent resident card which is issued under the Homeland Security Act 2002 as an identification card attesting to the permanent resident status of a foreigner living and working in the United States.
He told the Weekend Nation that the Malawi Constitution and Section 80 (6) states that a person does not qualify to stand for presidency unless s/he is a citizen of Malawi by birth or descent and has attained the age of 35 years while subsection 80(7) (d) further states that a person who owes allegiance to a foreign country is also not eligible to stand for presidential elections.
“The fact that a person has been issued with the green card does not mean s/he is a citizen but it is the first step towards becoming a naturalised citizen. The holder of a green card owes certain allegiances to the United States of America such as payment of taxes and maintaining a permanent residence in the United States,”said Dzonzi.
“This may require Prof. Peter Mutharika to take up residence in the US for periods of not less a month per year. So it is possible for people to challenge his candidacy based on this fact. It will be up to the courts to define whether the term ‘owe allegiance’ covers this situation or not,” the paper quoted Dzonzi.
“It is clear that Prof. Peter Mutharika remains a citizen of Malawi by birth and unless he expressly renounces his citizenship under the Malawi Citizenship Act, no one can deprive him of this status.”
But Mutharika has always insisted that he has no dual citizenship but that he has a 10-year multiple entry visa for the US through the green card and a 15-year multiple entry visa for United Kingdom.
Mutharika still faces criminal charges in court but Dzonzi said he could not be barred from contesting based on the court proceedings unless he has been proven guilty.
B ut he observed that the cases could discourage or frighten DPP supporters into thinking that their party would not participate in the polls.