Malawian leaders are an interesting lot, but seem clueless when faced with Members of Parliament intend on holding the leaders accountable for whatever decision they make.
And it is apparent that at no time do the leaders’ fears come to the fore than when they are summoned by Members of Parliament.
In post-1994 Malawi, it has become impossible for leaders to be held accountable through that forum of the people [through their Members of Parliament, of course]: Parliament.
Former president, the late Bingu wa Mutharika, never availed himself to legislators to respond to their questions. Joyce Banda was no different and no one expects President Peter Mutharika to be any different.
But our leaders’ position on the issue of appearing before legislators armed with the sole purpose of responding to questions is no unfortunate it is undemocratic. Come to think of it, our legislators are direct representatives of the people, voted into power to represent nothing but the wishes of the people of this country.
In the latest episode to the issue of legislators asking for an honest, harmless face-off with their president, four members of Parliament— Malawi Congress Party president and opposition leader, reverend Lazarus Chakwera, Mzimba South West legislator and former Vice-President Khumbo Kachali, Rumphi West representative Kamlepo Kalua and Nkhotakota South East legislator, Everson Makowa, send questions to the President under Standing Order 70.
When legislators have burning questions and feel that the only human being capable of providing answers is the President, they write the President through the Speaker of the National Assembly. The four legislators took this path but, as has sadly been the case with our so—called democratic leaders, the four legislators will be disappointed to learn that a Cabinet minister will stand-in for the President.
This is sad, considering that the issues the legislators raised are pertinent to Malawi. We talk of hunger and an economic down-spiral that has no brakes.
Maybe this should be, yet again, an eye-opener and should help us reconsider the role of the Vice-President in our national affairs. Maybe the Vice-President, if the laws said so, could have represented the President well. Otherwise, delegating a Cabinet Minister smacks of insecurity and blatant disdain for accountability.
Of course, I know that Vice-Presidents, even in the United States, are figureheads. They are there and, at the same time, they are not there. Indeed, one humorist in the United States joked that “The role of the Vice-President is to represent him or herself at the president’s funeral”. I have forgotten who, but I liked that expression.
But this is not the way things should pan out, in the United States, or in this country.
The Vice-President can become more useful than now by being given some responsibilities. For example, the laws – or, is it protocol? — should make it possible for the Vice-President to stand in and represent the President when the question of the President appearing in Parliament [and the President seems unwilling to do so] crops up.
As things stand now— and, maybe, I may be schooled on this one— the National Assembly is composed of The President and The Parliament. I do not think the term president [despite appearing alongside the Vice President, who serves as running mate, on the ballot box] includes the Vice-President.
If it does, why not send Vice-President Saulos Chilima? That’s where the issue of insecurity crops up.
Someone, somewhere— as has happened so many times before— is afraid!