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The Rule of Law Must Reign, Mr. President

It is almost five months since the historic election that booted out the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) from government and ushered in the Tonse Alliance under Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera. Yet the air of relief still lingers. An atmosphere of euphoria can still be discerned. While a handful of people are already disgruntled with the pace at which the Tonse Alliance is doing things, especially in removing “the rubble", as ably coined by President Chakwera in his inaugural speech, there is still a feeling of triumph among the majority of people that voted for the Tonse Alliance out there.

Even without great strides by the new government, which should reasonably be expected as there is a lot to change and a good foundation for governing laid, many people sleep soundly just knowing that a DPP regime is no longer one we wake up to every morning. It is the belief of this group of people that slowly, but surely, the nepotism that was wittily championed by the DPP is dying a natural death. It is the conviction of this group of people that corruption will be uprooted. Above all, it is the hope of this group that the rule of law will be the order of the day.

The rule of law is the foundation of any functioning government. Much as rule of law was one of the manifesto pillars of the Tonse Alliance and mostly the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) under its Hi5 banner, it is a foundational principle of any democratic government such that it need not be in a manifesto. It is expected at all times. The change that people voted for was that the law shall rule, whether promised or not. The failure of the law ruling was one of the reasons the revolution happened. The blatant disregard of the law was one of the main reasons that the DPP was ushered out of power. There is, therefore, nothing to negotiate about in as far as the law ruling in this era.

Yet again, there is merit in listening to those disgruntled voices. For there was disappointment in some pockets of society when the Tonse Alliance government failed to deliver the stipulated 40% of women in Cabinet and in Statutory Boards. It is the law, and therefore, non-negotiable.

With high hopes of a properly run government, this failure to abide by the law was a big disappointment. The dictates of the Gender Equality Act [2013] are to be followed just like any other law of the land, without exceptions. There are plenty of qualified women to fill the required minimum quota in public appointments and even exceed it. The irony that winks back at the appointing authority is that it was possible to have women take 50% of the High Court appointments. That is how it’s done, and no one should be thanked for it just like no one goes on the street thanking people for not stealing. Everyone must follow the law.

And this takes us to the recent “order" by the president to the Statutory Boards to clear the rubble in the statutory corporations.

While “clearing the rubble” in these institutions is an overdue and welcome longing for all Malawians, how it is done will be the litmus test for the new government. Is it going to be business as usual or business unusual? Managing the affairs of statutory corporations is the mandate of the Boards and not the remit of a state President. The Boards are expected to act independently of any political interference. At least this is what is expected of the current Boards that are believed to be made up of mostly professionals unlike the previous ones that were full of ruling party sympathisers, mostly goons who were more in charge of channelling taxpayers’ money out of government. The President would be usurping the powers of the Boards if he is to be giving orders on what is to be done. We have seen how, previously, politicians used to run the show in total disregard of laid down procedure, hence the revolution.

Why should we now start clapping hands when the same things are repeating themselves? Is it a matter of ‘it is wrong when the DPP does it but not when the Tonse Alliance does it’? And as if ordering the Boards to act was not bad enough, the president even went further to direct the NOCMA Board to act against a specific individual who happens to be a DPP functionary. That was out of order, Mr. President. The Boards must be left to do their work which they had done by suspending Gift Dulla, the NOCMA CEO for alleged financial mismanagement and appointing Ms. Helen Buluma, his deputy, in an acting capacity. It was your word, Mr. President, that you had heard the public outcry and, therefore, directed the Board “to address the anomaly”.

While we commend you, Mr President for being a listening President, this should not mean that the masses should drive you into acting out of tune with the law. And while we are removing the rubble, should we not make sure that Malawi is for everyone? If we remove people from positions just because they are DPP functionaries without assessing whether they are qualified or not, eligible or not, performers or not, we are most likely to be simply repeating the sins of DPP we became all too allergic to. The closest affiliates, if not from the Lhomwe belt, found themselves into powerful, lucrative positions. Their eligibility, for the most part, remains elusive. While any sabotage should not be tolerated, this is an area in which we must tread carefully. The interference of the President in a seemingly simple matter like the NOCMA affair risks refreshing memories of days past.

In this new era, Malawi should be for all. Where a person comes from or which Party they are affiliated to should no longer determine whether they benefit or not. This is the opportune time to unite Malawians. This is the time for every Malawian to feel Malawian. Equality must reign. Above all, the rule of law must reign, Mr. President.



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