Malawi’s President Mutharika criticised for ‘illegally’ sacking vice president

Peter-Mutharika
Malawi President Peter Mutharika

Malawi’s government is headed for a constitutional crisis following president Peter Mutharika decision to sack Vice President Saulos Chilima on Wednesday in a cabinet reshuffle.

Chilima is seen as the biggest threat to Mutharika ahead of next year’s presidential election, having resigned from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), accusing it of breeding nepotism, cronyism and corruption.

In July, the president’s office withdrew Chilima’s security clearance, saying he would only have that privilege when performing government duties.

Can Mutharika fire Vice President?

Chilima’s name was not on the list of members of cabinet which the chief secretary to the government, Lloyd Muhara, released. No replacement for him was named either.

The Malawian constitution provides that the country shall have “a Cabinet consisting of the President, the First Vice President, the Second Vice-President and such Ministers and Deputy Ministers as may, from time to time, be appointed by the President”.

The vice president, who is elected along with the president is therefore considered to be an automatic member of the cabinet.

Leaving Chilima out of the cabinet may be interpreted as being against provisions of the constitution, which president Mutharika has no power to amend.

Opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), called out the president for disreagarding the law, as he conducted his latest reshuffle.

Pointing out that Mutharika has no powers to fire Chilima, Chakwear added that the cabinet also falls short on the constitutional provision for 40% female representation. Mutharika’s 20-member cabinet has three female ministers.