In the previous discussions, we identified a number of circumstances under which President Lazarus Chakwera can relinquish power vis a vis resignation, incapacitation, impeachment or death.
Realistically, any of the aforementioned scenarios may happen at any time. However, at this time when the Vice President Chilima is answering charges of abuse of office and corruption, what can happen if President Chakwera relinquishes power?
Fortunately, the Malawi Constitution is very clear on the succession plan. Whenever the position of the president falls vacant, the first vice president automatically fills the vacuum. If that happens, Dr. Saulos Chilima as the president will have to appoint his vice.
According to our Malawi Constitution, Dr. Saulos Chilima will need to lead Malawi till the next general elections. Truth be told, I find this arrangement rather tempting. Imagine the worst case scenario where the president on his first day in office relinquishes power. This would mean that the vice president will need to lead the nation for the next five years. Are you envisaging what I am seeing here?
The better arrangement is to allow the vice president to ascend to power as a caretaker and within 90 days, fresh presidential elections must be conducted to reseek voters’ mandate. The Zambian constitution was framed thus.
Unfortunately, our Malawi Constitution puts the life of the State President at the mercy of his vice. This is a recipe for a disaster.
Malawians can recall that in 2020, Dr. Saulos Chilima was heard in a certain leaked audio that he would ascend to power upon the demise of Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika who was the state president then. This did not go down well with APM such that he retaliated by cautioning him. He intimated that only God knows the future of a human being. He labelled such unfortunate statement as being childish.
Now that the Vice President Chilima is answering charges of corruption, there is a great chance that the relationship between Chakwera and Chilima will be sour. Such animosity is a recipe for another disaster.
Here is another one million dollar question, what will happen to his charges if Chilima ascends to power through any of the aforementioned means?
In fact, when the vice president assumes the mantle of leadership, he will have all the powers and prerogatives of the presidency. In other words, Dr. Chilima will also enjoy presidential immunity from being prosecuted of any criminal charges.
This reminds me of the Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, who was suspected of being involved in the gruesome murder of the US based renowned journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. Journalist Jamal was ambushed and strangled by a 15 member squad of assassins. His body was later dismembered and disposed of. Even his grave cannot be traced.
In an attempt to evade prosecution, Prince Mohammed bin Salman was recently elevated to the position of the Prime minister, a post that has immunity from criminal Prosecutions.
Here comes now a paradox. If Chilima becomes the President of Malawi and then presidential immunity protects him from criminal prosecution, will he continue with his bid of removing presidential immunity? Your guess is as accurate as mine. All I am saying is that this can only happen if President Chakwera relinquishes power now.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are those of the author not necessarily of The Maravi Post or Editor