President Peter Mutharika Friday left the country to attend Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meeting but steered clear of the debate that has engulfed the DPP on whether he should run for office next year in view of his advanced years.
The ruling DPP has been hit with a crisis going by the name Hurricane Callista on the social media after former First Lady Callista Mutharika said last week that her in law should pave way for his Vice Saulos Chilima as the DPP presidential candidate in next year’s elections.
Among those who supported Callista are DPP National Youth Director Louis George Ngalande and Mulanje South MP Bon Kalindo.
On the other hand, the party itself has been up in arms, with its gurus, led by Ministry of Information Nicholas Dausi, holding a press conference in Lilongwe on Thursday where they affirmed that the President will be the party’s candidate next year.
But speaking to State controlled MBC after reviewing guard of honour mounted by the Second Battalion of the Malawi Defence Force (MDF), the President stayed clear of the crisis in his party and instead concentrated on the meeting in the United Kingdom.
“The meeting is very significant in the sense that we will be discussing very important issues such as malaria control, development and also issues of education, health [and] security. So, it is extremely important,” he said.
Mutharika said he could not delegate the assignments to his ministers.
“We are trying to cut costs. I normally send the Foreign [Affairs and International Cooperation] minister. But with something important like this one, I am going. And I will address a number of committees in the House of Commons. Then I will have a state visit to Scotland….I will also address the Scottish Parliament. It is important, that is why I am going. I could not delegate this one,” Mutharika said.
After the President’s chartered jet registration PA BFY took off, Chilima dismissed the guard of honour in the company of Army Commanger Griffin Supuni and acting Inspector General of Police Rodney Jose.
When asked, who is currently in charge in the absence, in view of the tension in the ruling party, Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Nicholas Dausi, said “No comment”.
But Section 89 of the Constitution talks about powers and duties of the President. Section 89 (6) reads:
“The powers and functions of the President shall be exercised by him or her personally or by a member of the Cabinet or by a government official to whom the President has delegated such power in writing.”
Malawi Law Society (MLS) president Mwiza Nkhata said the Constitution is very clear on who is in charge in the absence of the President.
“The default position is normally the Vice President. The Constitution says in the absence of the President, the Vice President discharges the duties of the President. One of the duties is presiding over cabinet meetings,” Nkhata said.
Nkhata also highlighted Section 79 of the Constitution which gives an indication that the Vice President is the one who takes charge in the absence of the President.
“There shall be a First Vice- President and, subject to section 80 (5), a Second Vice-President both of whom shall assist the President and who shall exercise the powers and perform the functions conferred on the First Vice-President or the Second Vice-President, as the case may be, by this Constitution or by any Act of Parliament and by the President,” reads the section.
Meanwhile DPP supporters yesterday took advantage of the departure of the President to show their support to both Mutharika and Chilima.
Scores of youthful Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members, travelled to Kamuzu International Airport in trucks praising him all the way.
Some wore white T/shirts written “Friends of DPP” in front and “Sali Yekha APM” at the back.
Women who were inside the airport also sang songs in praise of Mutharika, throughout, even after the private jet had left the airport.
After the plane left, Chilima, flanked by General Supuni Phiri and Jose, stood in front of MDF soldiers, before proceeding to his official MG 2, Toyota Landcruiser.
Immediately, a group of DPP youths mobbed the car, and started singing in support of him.
At one point they sang: “Chilima ndi pwepwete… Chilima ndi pwepwete, pwetepwete, enawa ndi ojiya mtauni!”
This year’s Chogm, which will be chaired by UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, will be held under the theme: “Toward a Common Future”.
It is expected that 53 heads of state and government will attend the summit, which will be held from 16 to 20 April, 2018.