Malawi: Chilima’s Suggestion On Removing Presidential Immunity Gets Legal Bashing

A renowned legal expert has cautioned that removing presidential prosecution immunity would backfire, saying there is a good reason framers of the Republican Constitution decided to include in the Constitution.

This follows Vice President Saulos Chilima’s call on Friday for immediate removal of the presidential immunity as part of efforts to fight corruption in the country.

The Malawi Constitution does provide immunity from prosecution to the Head of State while the same does not apply to a sitting Vice President.

Ironically, Chilima’s suggestions come at a time when himself risks prosecution after two graft reports named him as one of 84 people who might have received huge sums of money and other gifts from businessman Zuneth Sattar.

A legal expert has, however, said the proposal by Chilima has advantages and disadvantages.

Edge Kanyongolo, a Constitutional law expert who has retired from the University of Malawi on Friday, said Presidents have a veil of Constitutional protection from criminal prosecution so that they are not distracted from affairs of state.

Kanyongolo said it is not automatic that removing immunity is a good thing or leaving it there is a bad thing or vice versa.

He said if the provision is to be amended, it has to be after the public has debated on its advantages and disadvantages.

“On one hand, the argument to keep it there is that presidents should not be distracted by prospects of prosecution. So there are arguments in favour of that provision

“And then there are arguments which support the amendment. And those argument say by giving the president immunity, it undermines the fight against corruption,” said Kanyongolo.

He said based on this it is not automatic that removing immunity is a good thing or living it there is a bad thing.

He said ultimately, Malawians will have to decide through their elected representative in parliament.

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