Political pressure group Transformation Alliance (TA) held its first national conference on August 25 in Blantyre where calls for speedy implementation of constitutional reforms to reduce presidential powers and give governance institutions more powers were raised. Subsequently, the Alliance released a communiqué from the conference last week. The communiqué also echoed the calls that were made during the conference. Our news analyst MERCY MALIKWA caught up with TA chairperson Moses Kunkuyu to unpack some of the issues discussed at the conference. Excerpts:
What were the objectives of the conference?
The rationale for holding the conference was, among others, to speak out in plain terms about the ills in our society today, especially governance issues; take stock of our activities since we came into being last year; listen and learn from diverse experiences of our delegates; map the way forward as an advocacy group while taking on board new challenges and lastly, to reflect on the one year of existence.
Did you achieve the objectives?
The first national conference, by all standards, measured up to expectations and it answered the questions that we set out to investigate. All the presenters, who included leader of opposition in Parliament Lazarus Chakwera, economist Henry Kachaje, Alex Machila of Centre for Justice and Equity, political activist Saunders Juma and president of Mzuzu University Students’ Representative Council Wazamazama Katatu, spoke out in clear terms about the ills facing our society today, especially governance issues. The Transformation Alliance listened and learnt from the diverse experiences of the delegates and the overarching theme that was developed from there is that we need a constitutional reform. Malawi needs a constitutional reform.
Why calling for speedy implementation of the constitutional reforms?
Having examined and analysed the submissions made at the conference, we feel the solution is to embark on a constitutional reform, as soon as possible, and in particular, to reduce presidential powers and give governance institutions more powers.
We need focus, among others, on the three categories of presidential power, namely constitutional power [power explicitly granted by the Constitution], delegated power [power granted by the National Assembly] and inherent powers [powers of incumbency by virtue of being Commander in Chief of powerful State institutions]
On constitutional powers, there was a feeling that very often the President is able to breach the separation of power because he exclusively controls funding and appointments in other branches of government. The Transformation Alliance therefore advocates for an exercise to reform presidential powers granted in the Constitution in consultation with all stakeholders in the country.
On delegated power, the solution is to make sure that the National Assembly has the necessary capability to make informed decisions and the skills to access and evaluate the performance of those delegated with its powers.
power is the one that has been abused more than the others. Although the Constitution provides for the establishment of key public institutions such as the Malawi Electoral Commission, the Malawi Human Rights Commission and the Anti-Corruption Bureau, in reality the President has powers that can be used for personal ambitions, advantage and patronage. We have witnessed breaches of human rights and stifling of political and press freedoms.
Is it only presidential powers you are concerned with?
Apart from revisiting presidential powers, the constitutional review must also include the following provisions: a call for referendum whenever there are issues of national importance; the bringing back of the recall provision; the Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Auditor General must be truly independent and selected by an independent multiparty parliamentary committee; creation of an office of independent public prosecutor; President must always appear before Parliament when need be to answer questions, selection of ministers by the President must be vetted; all chief executive officers of parastatals, including the Reserve Bank of Malawi, must report to a parliamentary committee and use of public resources by any political party, whether ruling or in opposition, for campaign purposes must be prohibited.
The first conference was held, constitutional review calls were made, what next now?
The Transformation Alliance agenda will demand for a constitutional review that will aim at addressing the areas that currently impedes good-governance. This will be done in order to rebalance our society and economic system in favour of a productive economy that automatically favours younger people, and away from the old-vested interests and that section of the political elite, rotten and polluted by greed and corruption, and who benefitted from the one-party set up. This will be done bearing in mind that our political framework has failed to evolve into a true democracy and only encourages and fosters hero-worship and political patronage.
Moving away from the conference issues, why was Transformation Alliance formed?
The trend that has developed since the introduction of multiparty politics is for leaders to place selfish and parochial interests as priorities, consequently neglecting the well-being of the majority of Malawians. As such, Transformation Alliance was born to fill a void that has been left by non-State actors that are critical in building a just and free society. The swallowing up of CSOs, faith and traditional leaders, couples with the inefficacy or dereliction of duty by Parliament to hold government accountable underpins the dire situation in which Malawians find themselves.
Are you going to achieve that working as a pressure group?
TA is prepared to work with individuals, political parties and groups that are political because it believes that an all-inclusive socio-economical-cum-political environment for Malawi is what is required to address the mala-fide intentions that we face in our society.