Recent Vice President resignation calls by ministers is a demonstration of who has power to influence things in government. On Friday, 27th July, 2019, some officials from the ruling Democratic Progress Party (DPP) who are also senior cabinet ministers conducted a press conference to demonize the new broom in town, Vice President of the Republic of Malawi and leader of United Transformation Movement (UTM) Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima. Among other things, the minister’s main objective for calling the press conference was to force Chilima to resign as Vice President of Malawi.
In a normal country set up, the ministers are supposed to be Chilima’s subordinates. Yet such is not the case in Malawi where a President is worshiped like a God. The ministers acted like they have the ultimate power. Where are they taking the power from? The President of course! In trying to put off the Chilima fire, DPP is revealing one troubling fact and helping Chilima explain why he could not influence change in governance during the past four years. The troubling fact is that all executive powers belong to the president. It’s up to the President to listen, empower or respect all other offices in the executive branch of government. The President can empower anyone to act with more power regardless of their position in government. This is why ministers, just ministers, are calling for the Vice President’s resignation.
For the past four years, the President has been deciding who should have power. We have seen presidential aides and so-called field marshals becoming very powerful and dubiously rich because they wield more power than ministers or the Vice President. There lies the problem with our constitution. It gives too much power to the President such that success or lack thereof of government programs solely rely on his political will.
The Vice President resignation calls are coming during the same week that President Peter Mutharika through the Inspector General of Police and Chief Secretary to the cabinet decided to remove part of the Vice President’s security detail. In terms of his powers as a Vice President, there was nothing Dr. Chilima could do about it because the ultimate power rests in the President’s hands. Powerless to stop such an insane decision, Chilima has taken the matter to court and the courts have issued a stay order as well as permission for a judicial review.
When Chilima was given the task to conduct a review of the Civil Service and suggest necessary reforms, with his team, he did a fantastic job. Yet instead of leaving the implementation of the reforms in the proven hands of Chilima, the President decided to take the limelight in fear of the obvious popularity that Dr. Chilima got by competently working on the reforms. The reforms implementation was transferred to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC). The result was disaster just like anything that Mutharika touches. The reforms took a tumble and the current talk of reforms is just lip service. Again, there was nothing Dr. Chilima could do about it because the President has the ultimate power.
Dr. Chilima was doing so well on disaster management, a ministerial post he held on top of being Vice President. Anyone who has been following recent disasters in Malawi, will bear witness to the excellent working spirit of Dr. Chilima. The speed at which he responded to disasters with his team and other stakeholders has never been seen before. From coordinating rescue of flood victims to practically leading disaster relief teams, he was just brilliant. It was amazing to see him in working suit, boots on and walking through muddy waters. No red carpet. Typical of Mutharika, he decided to grab the post from him.
At the moment, Chilima is just remaining with the Vice President post because he is protected by the constitution. The framers of the constitution must have foreseen that a position which is next to the President and crucial to peace, stability and prevention of chaos in the event of the President’s incapacitation, must be protected. It was a way of ensuring that an elected Vice President should not just be fired willy-nilly. The Vice President, once elected together with the President becomes the fabric of the country and not a party tool that can be used at will.
The Vice President has formed UTM, the people’s movement, as the only way he can influence real change in Malawi. It is a result of experiencing the wielding of too much power by the President. Dr. Chilima has personally witnessed that as long as Presidential powers are not curbed, almost everything depends on him. Not one to continue sitting back and be a spectator of mediocrity, he has decided to lead the people’s movement.
Mutharika has demonstrated that he believes he is the only power and the buck stops at him. This is why despite promising to reduce Presidential powers in the DPP manifesto in 2014, he didn’t do it. Power is too sweet for him.