By Watipaso Mzungu
A local human rights body, the Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI), has written President Lazarus Chakwera, cautioning the Head of State against ignoring the legal opinion of the Attorney General (AG) Dr. Chikosa Silungwe on the status of the embattled Commissioners of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), Jean Mathanga and Linda Kunje.
Chakwera has refused to offer letters of appointment to Mathanga and Kunje and the two have been going without salaries.
His decision is in conflict with the legal advice of Silungwe who recently wrote the State Vice President, Dr. Saulos Chilima, advising him and all controlling officers to abide by the Republican Constitution before moving or indeed firing anyone from the public service.
And this has prompted CDEDI to warn Chakwera that the organization and all well-meaning Malawians will hold Chakwera personally liable, together with the Secretary to the President and Cabinet and the Speaker of Parliament for the court remedies, in the event that the Mathanga and Kunje succeed in their court case.
The organization’s executive director Sylvester Namiwa says they do not want the implications of such shameful tendencies of impunity to be shouldered by the taxpayers, who are also the voters.
“CDEDI is further reminding you, Sir, that the Tonse Alliance administration is running government today as beneficiaries of the same respect for the rule of law, as manifested by the landmark ruling delivered by the country’s Constitutional Court on the Presidential Elections case on 3rd February, 2020. Notwithstanding the foregoing, CDEDI and all well-meaning Malawians are dismayed by the actions of your own office to disregard the rule of law as exemplified by your continued refusal to grant letters of appointment to these two commissioners despite the AGs legal opinion and your current shenanigans to fire the two MEC Commissioners through the Public Appointments Committee of parliament (PAC),” reads the statement, which Namiwa has directed to Chakwera today.
“Your Excellency will recall that CDEDI delivered a petition to your office through the district councils of Lilongwe and Blantyre which among other things, clearly requested you not to sit on the Attorney General’s legal opinion on the appointment of the two commissioners, but to act on it by issuing appointment letters to the two MEC Commissioners as opined by the AG. Your Excellency Sir, the decision by your office and that of the Secretary to the President and Cabinet to ignore the Attorney General’s legal opinion vindicates our earlier stand that your action is a clear case of political victimisation coupled with your nepotistic tendency,” it adds.
Namiwa says it is sad that in Chakwera’s determination to politically victimise the two commissioners, the President and the Speaker of Parliament have conspired to use PAC to attempt to legitimize the firing of the two commissioners.
He warns that Malawians will not be fooled by “these dirty tricks from someone who is supposed to be their president”.
“In fact, this is a shame for someone who vowed to protect the Republican Constitution. In any case and as opined by the Attorney General, we hope you are aware that by firing the two commissioners on the grounds of “incompetence” in the last cohort of commissioners, you will be nullifying your own Presidency. You should therefore not be surprised if Malawians go onto the streets to call for fresh elections, once you fire the two commissioners,” fumes Namiwa.
He further reminds Chakwera that he is not the law, and neither is he above it.
“Your continued disregard of the Attorney General’s legal opinion, therefore, smacks of executive arrogance. Please note that should the two MEC Commissioners decide to take Government to court for unfair dismissal, CDEDI and all well-meaning Malawians will hold you personally liable, together with the Secretary to the President and Cabinet and the Speaker of Parliament for the court remedies, in the event that the two MEC Commissioners succeed in their court case. We do not want the implications of such shameful tendencies of impunity to be shouldered by the taxpayers, who are also the voters. Your Excellency may wish to know that ignoring legal opinion from the Attorney General which is a constitutional office undermines the authority of the office, a development which has the potential to drag the country into a banana republic where everyone does as it pleases them,” concludes Namiwa.