President Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera has described as wrong perceptions and connotations Malawians have had that the Head of State is the driver behind the steering wheel of a car controlling the speed, direction, movement, and destination of the machine.
Chakwera made the sentiments when he opened the first ever National Conference on the Separation of Powers at the Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe on Monday.
He said it was unfortunate that majority of Malawians think the current presidency is still functioning as if it was during the one-party state.
“And through their influence, there are even more Malawians who expect the presidency today to function in some of the ways it did at that time. In theory, Malawians chose to change their constitution and system of government in the referendum whose 30th anniversary falls two days from now, but in practice, some expectations that many Malawians have of government and their president have elements of the old system,” said the President.
Added Chakwera: “You see the signs of this most prominently in the way people speak about government in general and the things people ask a President to do in particular. The net effect of all these expectations is a distortion of what the current constitution says the functions of the office of the President are in his headship of the Executive Branch, and this distortion causes both citizens and government officials to feel frustrated when those distorted expectations are not met.”
The Malawi leader expected that the National Conference on the Separation of Powers should remind Malawians powers of the government are separated and shared between difference branches and among various governance institutions.
Chakwera emphasized that even the Constitution does not give him absolute powers.
“For this reason, my expectation is that this conference will prove to be a teaching moment for all of us as a nation, one that fosters the mindset change that we have named as a necessary enabler for the implementation of Malawi 2063.
“If, as a nation, our view of state power is unconstitutional, the sooner we correct that distortion the better, because without a proper and collective understanding of the powers the constitution gives to different branches and bodies, citizens will not play their rightful role of holding accountable those whose offices have been given a mandate to exercise elements of state power.
“Instead, we will continue to mistakenly blame the President, the Chief Justice, or the Speaker for the failures of other constitutional bodies that have powers these offices does not, and we will continue to have constitutional bodies that are not held accountable for failing to fulfil their mandates and use their powers as given them by the Constitution,” he said.