The Malawi Law Society (MLS) president, Patrick Mpaka says proposals to change laws such as presidential age limit should come through a proper public Bill not a private member’s Bill which seeks to amend Section 80 (6)(b) of the Constitution providing for the age eligibility of presidential candidates.
This is in response to reports that Mulanje Central lawmaker, Kondwani Nankhumwa is set to present a Private Member’s Bill proposing a constitutional amendment to prohibit any person above 80 years of age to contest for the presidency.
“Section 80 (6)(b) of the Constitution Act No 20 of 1994 of the laws of Malawi [hereinafter referred to as the ‘Constitution’] is amended by inserting the following new words ‘and is not more than eighty years old’ at the end of Section 80 (6)(b).” Reads in part the Bill.
According to Nankhumwa, given the demands of the offices of the President, First Vice-President and/or Second Vice-President, there is need for energetic office holders who can be productive and be able to steer State and government business in the right direction.
“It is my considered view; the framers of the Constitution might have inadvertently and or deliberately overlooked this aspect when drafting the foregoing provision.” Reads the memorandum to the proposed Bill.
However, Mpaka said unless there are exceptional grounds, parliamentarians must invariably limit their role to enacting rather than initiating laws.
According to Mpaka, Constitution in Section 87 addresses issues of capability of a President and Vice-President, as such, there is no constitutional gap that the proposed amendment seeks to address.
He said: “The justification and reason for the proposed Bill seem to be more of conjecture than empirically supported by evidence that at a certain age every person loses or gains capacity to effectively oversee the functions of the office of a President or Vice-President.
“Amending a Constitution is quite a serious matter and should ordinarily seek to advance and protect the public rather than the private interests of individual politicians. Proposed changes to the Constitution must be objective and have regard to the wishes of the people of Malawi generally.”
While concurring with Mpaka, Private practice lawyer John-Gift Mwakhwawa also said reasons for the Bill are obviously personal.
He said: “We should not allow Parliament to pass legislation that targets individuals as would be the case in this scenario. The real issue is the age at which one can stand for office of President.”
This will be a second attempt after a similar move failed in 2018 when former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator for Nsanje South West Joseph Chidanti-Malunga had proposed that the maximum age for those aspiring for the presidency should be capped at 65.