From the balcony: Reminder, trim presidential powers


As Malawi's President Lazarus Chakwera was being helped into the iconic and historic gold and black majestic chancellor’s gown for the third time, since taking the reins of power, I was reminded of his promise to whittle down presidential powers.

 In his early speeches, Chakwera aptly observed that: “Having a presidency that makes too many decisions has created problems for our country for a long time. Chief among them is that it has stifled a culture of responsibility and innovation among public institutions and private citizens…

“Even as parents in our homes, we know that rigidly concentrating too much decision-making power in the parents hinders a child’s ability to develop critical life skills. This is a mistake we must stop making at a national level.” 

The church cleric even acknowledged that being invested with so much power can get to your head, something a man of God would you want to avoid at all cost: “This is unwise. No person is good or humble enough to be entrusted with that much appointing power.”

Actually, previous Heads of State have gone on to abuse such powers to appoint cronies, relatives, village, district or tribal mates to positions that only exposed their incompetence, in the process stifling progress while advancing nepotistic tendencies.

Some have also used the magic wand to fire top officials willy nilly, costing the taxpayer billions, just to service their ego serving decisions.

Chakwera is not the only one who has expressed intent to trim presidential powers; immediate past president Peter Mutharika, a law professor also promised to reduce the God-like mandate he inherited. He did nothing!

In asking for a reduction in presidential powers, I am not arguing for one who will be reduced to mere figure-head, playing ceremonial roles, but for one that is consistent with a democracy and one that does not take us back to the autocracy our elders fought so hard to boot out.

The presidency has said they are working on it, but we would appreciate more speed to take proposals to Parliament or indeed to act on those that just require administrative action. 

Will we something come out of the budget review meeting of Parliament. I doubt.