President Lazarus Chakwera has changed tune on his pre-election campaign promise to trim presidential powers, saying he will instead focus on reviewing archaic laws such as sedition.
Presidential press secretary Anthony Kasunda said this on Monday at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe during the State House Quarterly Briefing which also coincided with the Tonse Alliance clocking two years in office.
Responding to a question on when the President will fulfil his campaign pledge of trimming some of the presidential powers, Kasunda said the focus now is on reviewing archaic laws.
He said: “The President is concentrating on making changes to the legislation on laws that affect Malawians directly.
“You have seen the Chakwera administration bringing to Parliament land laws and very soon will be laws to do with sedition. This is one area that the media has been crying for a long time that these laws should be reviewed.”
Kasunda said the President will at an appropriate time, will address issues that affect his office.
Sedition laws provided under Section 50 and 51 of the Penal Code were inherited from the colonial administration and are mostly viewed as being in conflict with the country’s Constitution and international human rights standards.
Reacting to the President’s position, Youth and Society executive director Charles Kajoloweka in an interview on Monday described the sentiments as double standards.
He argued that Chakwera committed during campaign to review his presidential powers and should do that.
Kajoloweka said it will be a lame excuse to use review of other archaic laws as basis for failure to act on commitments he made.
He said: “We do not want a President who shifts goal posts as he deems political right, he must live by his commitment and the reasons being cited for the delay are baseless excuses that must not be accepted by Malawians.”
Kajoloweka also pointed out that Chakwera had promised not to accept to be Chancellor of public universities, but he has sustained it and keep assuming the very powers he pledged to forfeit as well to stop police officers from lining up the streets when a head of State is passing.
He wondered how the Tonse Alliance administration has been able to enact new laws such as the NGO Act and Labour Relations Amendment Act which, he claimed, were not a priority for Malawians.
Chakwera had pledged to dispense with three presidential powers, appointment the Anti-Corruption Bureau director and to ring-fence funding to Parliament.
During an appearance in Parliament under Section 89(3) (c) of the Constitution in September 2020, Chakwera told the House that the reduction of the presidential powers will be both legislative, administrative and ceremonial.
The President said: “The administrative power due for review is the power to control the cash flow of Parliament. It is my view that as it is with the Judiciary, once a budget is passed, Parliament’s vote should be ring-fenced and put in accounts controlled by the Legislature itself, subject to its own audits.”
Political and governance expert Makhumbo Munthali, in a separate interview, said it is becoming clear that the Executive has no interest in pushing for the agenda due to selfish political interests.
He said the onus now is on Malawians to define their own destiny by taking proactive steps to ensure that the agenda is pursued.
Said Munthali: “What presidential powers do we need to trim besides what was already pledged as regards presidential appointments of some senior public officials? To what extent should such powers be trimmed for the well-functioning of our democracy?”
During the briefing, State House director of communications Sean Kampondeni disclosed that government has set aside K20 billion for the National Youth Service programme to be launched on July 19.
The programme seeks to equip young people with skills.
He also said Chakwera has cancelled the July 6 Independence Day celebrations owing to economic hardships instead prayer ceremony will be held at the Bingu International Convention Centre in Lilongwe.