President Joyce Banda of Malawi has challenged that she will not declare her assets as some quarters are insinuating, stating that she is not contravening any known law.
President Banda’s pronouncement is in sharp contrast to the expectation of opposition parties, civil society organisations and some citizens that the president ought to honour Section 88 of the Malawi Constitution.
Section 88 sub section (3) of Malawi constitution compels the president, and members of the cabinet to declare their assets when they have been ushered into office.
The section reads; “The president and members of the cabinet shall …….. within three months from the date of election or appointment, as the case may be, fully disclose all of their assets, liabilities and business interests, and those of their spouses, held by them or on their behalf as at the date ; and, unless Parliament otherwise prescribes by an act of Parliament, such disclosure shall be made in a written document delivered to the Speaker of the National Assembly who shall immediately upon receipt deposit the document with such public office as may be specified in the Standing Orders of parliament”.
Until the death of professor Bingu wa Mutharika on April 7 2012, Joyce Banda was vice president of Malawi, elected during the May 2009 presidential and parliamentary elections where she stood as a running mate to the late Mutharika.
In her defence, Mrs Banda claims that after consultations she is convinced that it is not necessary for her to declare her assets as she did that when she was vice president.
“The constitution demands that I declare my assets when coming in and when going out of government. I did this when I was vice president and there is no need for me to do that again.
“If anything I will do this when getting out of government in 2014 or 2019(if elected in May 2014), otherwise there is no need,” the president challenged.
There have been calls from most people and organisations on this issue. Of late the Consumers Association of Malawi (CAMA) has been mobilising its members to go in the streets on January 17 if the president will not look into the issue that the consumers are calling the president to look into, one of them being the issue of assets declaration.
The president has since challenged the group to go ahead with the demonstration if they so wish.
Political parties have also been calling the president and her cabinet to declare their assets. One of them being People’s Progressive Movement (PPM) whose president Mark Katsonga Phiri, says he will voluntarily declare his assets when elected Malawi president.
Section 213 (4) of Malawi Constitution calls upon the Committee of Parliament which “shall have the function of monitoring the compliance with the requirements on the disclosure of assets under section 88 (3) and under this section and the committee shall have all the powers necessary to perform its functions”.
Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara defended the president saying the Malawi leader is not obliged to declare her assets because she did that when she was elected as the country’s vice president.
“There is no reason for her to declare her assets now because she was a member of the cabinet that was sworn in 2009. The Constitution, Section 88 (A) is very clear on this that the president or the vice president shall declare their assets within three months of being elected or appointed,” the justice minister who before the recent cabinet reshuffle doubled as attorney general once said.
He argued that the same applies to deputy ministers, saying they declare their assets soon after they are appointed deputy ministers but do not declare their assets when they are promoted to full ministerial position.
However other commentators still argue that the president should declare her assets to instil confidence in the people she is ruling and as a matter of transparency.
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