Malawi Law Society says JB not legally compelled to hand over power

Malawi Law Society (MLS) has agreed with former president Joyce Banda’s assertion that she did not need to be physically present to hand over power to new leader Peter Mutharika at his inauguration.

President Mutharika said Monday that he had extended an olive branch to his predecessor who did not attend the inauguration at Kamuzu stadium in Blantyre, Malawi’s commercial capital.

Mutharika told the crowd he regretted that she had “declined to come here and hand over power to me”.

Kilembe:Banda was within her rights
Kilembe:Banda was within her rights

Banda, through her spokesman Tusekele Mwanyongo, said she was unable to attend the event to handover the sword of power to Mutharika because she was “resting” in the lakeshore district of Nkhata Bay in the north of the country.

Mwanyongo said Banda was not constitutionally mandated to hand over power or participate in the inauguration.

Malawi Law Society agrees that the former president could not be legally compelled to hand over power to the newly elected leader.

Ms Felisa Kilembe, spokesperson for the MLS said Banda was within her rights not to show up at Mutharika’s inauguration.

“Legally, she was not obliged to go there and do the hand over,” Kilembe said on VOA.

“However, symbolically it would have been very good for the country for her just to go as a goodwill gesture and go and wish professor Mutharika all the best, and ceremoniously hand over. It would have symbolized quite a lot for the country. It would have shown unity, showed at least that she has accepted this and she is willing to move forward,” she pointed out.

Billy Mayaya, a leading member of the Malawi Civil Society groups, said Banda’s action showed lack of leadership.

He also said it’s a missed opportunity to demonstrate to the world that Malawi remains united in spite of the existing political differences and the controversy surrounding the outcome of last month’s tripartite elections.

“One of the symbolisms is showing commitment to nation building. Her refusal sends wrong signals to various stakeholders in that she was maybe bitter with her loss, and I think that does not augur well with an emerging democracy like Malawi,” said Mayaya.

Banda is the second serving Malawian president to lose an election the first was Kamuzu Banda who lost to Bakili Muluzi in 1994.

Official results showed Mrs Banda came third with 20% of the vote. Mutharika won with 36% of the vote, while former preacher Lazarus Chakwera was in second place with 28%.

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