Malawi Parliament plans to impeach Vice President

Malawi’s parliament has started paving the way to impeach Vice President Joyce Banda and has so far drafted procedures in the Standing Orders on how to remove a sitting President or Vice President.

The draft procedures contained in a 170 paged document has since been presented to the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament

Parliament meets  from next week but it’s not known when government plans to table new procedures in the House.

“We don’t know whether she will be impeached in the November meeting or next year… but this could take a year or more before we can finalize them because we are not agreeable on everything yet,” said a member of the parliamentary committee who asked for anonymity.

The draft impeachment procedures for the President or Vice President proposed to the Legal Affairs Committee can see Parliament remove the two within 30 days of being indicted.

The procedures which will be section 239 of the Standing Orders will only require a member to move a motion to indict the President or Vice President for impeachment shall give notice of intention signed by one third of Members of the Assembly to the Office of the Speaker, 7 days before the motion.

“The Notice of Motion shall contain allegations of serious breaches of the constitution and or written laws by the President or the Vice President. Any signature appended to the notice of motion shall not be withdrawn,” reads section 239 (2) and (3) of the draft procedures in part

Government also proposes that the notice will include a concise statement of provisions of the constitution or written laws that have seriously been violated by the President or Vice President including sufficient particulars of the facts to prove the violations.

“The Speaker of Parliament shall within 24 hours issue writ of summons to the accused President or Vice President, reciting serious violation and notifying him or her to appear before the National Assembly, upon a day and at a place fixed within seven days and named in such writ and file his or her acknowledgement of the motion of parliament,” reads 239 (4).

The revelations that government is amending Standing Orders on impeachment procedures confirms widespread speculation that he wants to impeach Joyce Banda for forming another party.

Last month, Mutharika used his presidential referral powers and asked the courts to rule on whether the Vice President is not in breach of the constitution by forming another political party.

“Whether or not in light of Section 84 of the Constitution, a sitting Vice President…can become a President of an opposition political party, which subsequently fields candidates against the ruling party in elections, forms her own shadow cabinet, works against her own government, and consistently fails to attend Cabinet meetings and still be considered as a legitimate and continuing Vice President…,” reads the Presidential Referral filed in the High Court.

Mutharika is also seeking clarification from the court on whether, if the Vice President decided to resign, which office or authority she would inform and what manner such a resignation would be acceptable.

The draft amendments go on to say that if the accused President or Vice President after service, “shall fail to appear, either in person or with his or her legal practitioner, on the day fixed, the indictment shall proceed, nevertheless, as if or she appeared and understood the charges.”

“The accused shall be called upon and only answer whether he or she understands the grounds of impeachment against him or her. If he or she is absent the same shall recorded as if he or she understood the charges. Upon recording that he or she shall be asked to leave the House following which members shall debate the indictment,” stipulates the new orders.

After the debate of the motion, the Speaker shall call a vote on the motion and it shall be passed if affirmed by a two thirds vote of the Members of the National Assembly and the Committee of the whole house.
Section 240 (1) which deals with actual impeachment indicates that the Speaker shall within 24 hours of the notice following the resolution on indictment cause a copy of resolution to be transmitted to the Chief Justice who shall cause notice of indictment to be issued to the
President or Vice President.
“The Chief Justice shall, within 7 days after receipt of notice transmitted under sub rule (1), constitute a tribunal comprising of two Justices of the Supreme Court (excluding himself or herself) and a legal practitioner of good standing and with not less than 15 years at the bar to investigate the allegation in the indictment and to report its findings to the National Assembly stating whether or not there is a prima facie case,” states sub rule 2.

The section states that the President or Vice President shall be entitled to appear before the tribunal and to be represented by a Legal Practitioner of his or her choice.

“If the tribunal determines that there is a prima facie case for the removal of the President or Vice, then the National Assembly passes the resolution supported by votes of not less than two thirds of all members of Parliament, the President of Vice President shall cease to hold office,” states sub rule (4)