MLS says presidential impeachment debatable

MLS says presidential impeachment debatable

 Malawi Law Society (MLS) has weighed in on calls to impeach President Lazarus Chakwera, saying the matter is debatable because there is no clear definition of what constitutes serious violation of the Constitution.

Former governing Democratic Progressive (DPP) vice-president for Eastern Region Bright Msaka, a Senior Counsel, on Monday said the party would move Parliament to impeach Chakwera if he did not resign for allegedly failing to deliver.

Some legal experts have questioned the call to start impeachment proceedings against Chakwera on the basis that there are currently no grounds warranting such action, but MLS honorary secretary Gabriel Chembezi has said the matter is debatable.

In a written response, he noted that under Section 86 of the Constitution, the President or Vice-President can be removed from office where they, as the case may be, have been indicted and convicted by impeachment following a procedure for the same laid down by the Standing Orders of Parliament.

Chembezi: There is
no precedent

He said: “Indictment and conviction on impeachment requires the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members of the National Assembly. As per Section 86 of the Constitution, indictment and conviction by impeachment shall only be on the grounds of serious violation of the Constitution or serious breach of the written laws of the Republic.

“Given that there is no precedent to this, there is no clear definition of what constitutes serious violation of the Constitution… That would, therefore, be debatable. Removal of the President by reason of impeachment will create a vacancy in the office of the President and the Vice- President shall assume that office for the remainder of the term in line with Section 83 of the Constitution.”

But speaking earlier, Mzuzu-based private practice lawyer George Kadzipatike, while noting that Rules 208 and 209 of the Standing Orders of the National Assembly provide for indictment and impeachment procedures for the President and Vice- President, he said DPP’s calls are currently unwarranted.

While concurring with Kadzipatike, another private practice lawyer John- Gift Mwakhwawa said a new school of thought is emerging that questions the notion that impeachment of a President should be an exclusive privilege of Parliament without judicial oversight.

“There are no offences the President has committed under the Constitution or any other law, be it in the exercise of his powers or as an individual,” he said.

During the briefing in Blantyre on Monday, Msaka said: “Every Malawian should be telling the President to resign. We should also talk to our members of Parliament so that we impeach Chakwera when we get to Parliament. This is an option that is available. All we need is to be empowered by Malawians so that we impeach the President.”

He did not state how he expects Malawians to empower legislators to remove the President from office and efforts to reach him for further clarification have not yielded anything.

Impeachment procedures for the President or Vice-President, as laid down in Section 208(1), state:

“A member wishing to move a motion to indict the President or the Vice-President for impeachment shall give a notice of intention tomove such a motion, signed by one-third of members of the Assembly to the office of the Speaker seven days before the motion to indict the President or the Vice-President on impeachment is moved in the Assembly.”

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