A motion that would have forced a sitting President to face trial while in office if suspected of committing a crime including corruption was not moved in parliament on Thursday because the mover was not in the House.
Chiradzulu North member of Parliament (MP) Willet Kalonga (independent) had given the notice to table a Private Member’s Motion to amend Section 91(2) of the Constitution to remove the provision that gives a sitting President immunity.
Kalonga was expected to move the controversial motion on Thursday but when Speaker Richard Msowoya asked him to move the motion, he was not in the House.
No reasons were given for his absence but the motion was likely to be shot down as the government side is enjoying numerical power in the 193 strong House with support from the People’s Party – who are in working arrangement to support government as part of ‘amnesty’ of their leader Joyce Banda from prosecution.
Blantyre North MP Phiso even asked the Speaker to allow him read the motion on behalf of Karonga, a suggestion shot down by Msowoya.
The DPP members of parliament accused Karonga of “running away” from his own motion when it was evident it was to be shot down.
Kalonga’s notice to move the motion follows Vice-President Saulos Chilima calling for an amendment of a constitutional provision that would enable the removal of presidential immunity.
Chilima, who is on record as having condemned appalling corruption levels in the government he serves, called for the amendment of the law on the basis that the provision is a licence for the presidency to engage in corrupt practices as the office bearers know they would not be prosecuted.
Cureently, the Constitution gives immunity from civil lawsuits and criminal charges to a Heaf of State.
Section 91(2) reads: “No person holding the office of President shall be charged with any criminal offence in any court during his term of office.”
Meanwhile, governance commentator Mankhumbo Munthali has urged Parliament to pass an amendment to the Corrupt Practices Act (CPA) with finer details that entails appointees to the office of the director of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) should face an interviewing panel.
The Bill, gazetted on June 25 2018, is set to repeal Section 6 of the CPA by inserting 6(a) while maintaining that the director would be appointed by the President subject to confirmation by the Public Appointments Committee (PAC) of Parliament.
Munthali said there is need for government to come up with a clear criteria on the identifiacation of the people who will constitute the shortlisting and interviewing panel, saying the new arrangement could only work in an environment where the Executive arm of government is free from politics of patronage, nepotism and cronyism.
He fears that the proposed amandement may be prone to abuse.
Munthali said : “My recommendation is that the amendment to the Corrupt Practices should include a clause where the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs should appoint the ‘at least 7 member panel and the Committee’ in consultation with relevant recognised mother bodies like CONGOMA, Malawi Council of Churches/ECM/Quadria Muslim/MAM/EAM, Media Council of Malawi or MISA”.
He said s:uch a proposed consultation should be interpreted as the Minister writing these mother bodies to submit/nominate at least 3 persons of high integrity within their membership to be considered for selection by the Minister to be in the Panel.
“The minister then will select from the submitted list the 7 member panel.”
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu said the new process was in line with the eight pillars of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy which comprises the Executive, the Judiciary, the Legislature, traditional and faith leaders, media and private sector in the fight against corruption.
A new Section 6(b) has also been inserted to give the ACB director a tenure of three years, but the President would still have powers to remove the appointee with the confirmation of the Public Appointments Committee and an arbiter.
Activist Munthali observed that the proposed three years tenure of ACB director is vague, unrealistic and does not ably address the issue of security of tenure of graft-busting body Czar.
In 2016, Parliament rejected a motion from the then Legal Affairs Committee chairperson Peter Chakhwantha which sought to ensure the bureau’s independence from the Executive by leaving the appointment to the Parliament through the Public Appointments Committee.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :