Malawi President Joyce Banda has swallowed her pride and retracted the controversial appointment of her vice, Khumbo Kachali, as an overseer at the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC).
The Malawi government has said that much as the appointment of the vice president as an overseer of MEC was in good faith, the state president has listened to the fears and concerns raised by different people and groups after the appointment was made early this month.
In her first cabinet reshuffle on December 6, Joyce Banda, who ascended to the presidency on April 7 this year, while disrobing vice president of a health ministerial post, the president bestowed Khumbo Kachale responsibilities that raised eye brows from many.
The December 18 2012 statement from the ministry of information and civic education reiterates the Malawi government commitment in ensuring neutrality and independence of the electoral commission.
“Her Excellency the President, Mrs Joyce Banda, has listened carefully to the various voices expressing concern over the delegation by her to the Vice President, Right Honourable Khumbo Kachali, of her own role and responsibilities towards the Electoral Commission”, reads the statement in part.
“Accordingly, the President has directed that the Presidential role provided for in Section 6 of the Electoral Commission Act shall no longer be exercised by the Right Honourable Vice President.”
The appointment of the vice president as an overseer of MEC attracted concerns not only from political parties and the Malawi Electoral Commission, but also the civil society, Malawi Law Society, other legal experts, social commentators, and the general citizenry.
The concerned citizens and groups looked at the step taken by the president as suspicious and a threat to democracy especially with only 14 moths to the country’s first tripartite elections.
As vice president of the ruling party which will also compete in the elections, the commentators were worried that Kachali could be a barrier to the electoral body which would greatly comprise the independence of MEC and wondered whether the elections would on the onset be free and fair.
The Malawi leader however had defended the appointment at a public rally in Blantyre arguing that the move was just a shift of responsibility from her office to the office of the vice.
The president went further to challenge that there could be no sinister motive behind the appointment as she sees no competitor in the 2014 presidential race, hence no need for rigging.
And other legal experts also defended the president’s move as being legally binding.
But there was some relief last week when it was announced that the president would pronounce her stand concerning the appointment not long.
“The government wishes to inform the general public that Her Excellency the President Madame Joyce Banda who is the appointing authority will address the matter within the next few days,” informed information minister Moses Kunkuyu.
After the appointment of the vice president as an overseer of MEC, national relief and disaster management, national public events office, government printing services, and the central government stores, people were worried with the connectivity of the posts.
Section 6 (1) of the Malawi Electoral Act stipulates that every individual member and employee of the Commission shall perform the functions and exercise the powers provided for in this Act independent of the direction and interference of; (a) Any public office; (b) Any organ of the government; (c) Any political party; and (d)Any person whosoever or organisation whatsoever.
The Malawi Electoral Commission is comprised of a Chairperson, a High Court Judge and at least six Commissioners.
Its mission is “to conduct free fair, credible and cost effective elections on a regular basis as required by the Constitution”
Section 75 (2) of the Malawi constitution states that “a person shall not be qualified to hold the office of a member of the Electoral Commission if that person is a Minister, deputy Minister, a member of Parliament or a person holding public office” while section 76 (4) reads; “the Electoral Commission shall exercise its powers, functions and duties independent of any direction or interference by other authority or any person”.
The fresh decision by the Malawi leader will likely draw back some confidence that had withered in many Malawians following the appointment of vice president Khumbo Kachale as an overseer of the country’s electoral body.
Mrs Joyce Banda was sworn in as Malawi president after sudden demise of professor Bingu wa Mutharika. She appointed Khumbo Hastings Kachali as vice president some days later.
Few months ago, the two were elected party president and vice un opposed at a national convention held in Blantyre. The two are expected to be Peoples Party flag carriers in the 2014 elections.
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