On July 1, 2022, Vice President Saulos Chilima, declared that according to the agreement he signed with President Lazarus Chakwera constituting the Tonse Alliance, he will take over as leader of the troubled grouping in 2025.
This constitutes the biggest political development of 2022 as Malawians were afforded a glimpse of the hidden agreement between their leaders until Chakwera attempted to throw his deputy under the bus.
President Chakwera, days earlier announced that he had stopped “delegating duties” to the Vice President after he was named in the Anti-Corruption Bureau report, he had requested to implicate Chilima in the Zuneth Sattar scandal.
The Vice President’s basis of his claim is clause number 3.1.3 of the agreement he signed with President Lazarus Chakwera and witnessed by Former President Joyce Banda and two legal minds- Justice Minister Titus Mvalo and former Attorney General Chikosa Silungwe.
“Subject to the decisions of the national executive committees or conventions, as the case may be, of UTM and MCP, the presidential election during the fresh election shall not be the presidential candidate during the immediate next election and shall cede the candidacy to the running mate during the fresh election,” reads the clause.
The agreement indicates that the two parties can terminate it with three months’ notice.
Two schools of legal thought have emerged, despite general agreement by Lawyers The Investigator Magazine had sought their opinion. One group indicates that Chilima has a valid claim to the Tonse Presidency and can be enforceable through the courts but has no political consequences unless the UTM leader moves the courts now for interpretation.
The second thought is President Chakwera and his MCP might decide to ditch the alliance last minute and that would have no legal consequence as the agreement provides for termination with a notice of 3 months.
“Looking at how MCP reacted using its Secretary General Eisenhower Mkaka who challenged that the party was not a party to the agreement, it will be a wild dream to expect the MCP will hand over power to Chilima and the UTM,” said another lawyer.
Chilima who was arrested by the ACB on 25th November 2022 is yet to make any political move since the press briefing in July which he reminded the President to amend section 91 of the constitution to remove presidential immunity. The clause amendment is part of the agreement.
By suggesting the amendment in response to his ‘suspension’ the vice president was directly challenging Chakwera to subject himself to scrutiny as he has done if he is clean.
According to Chilima, while the Vice President of this country can, and must, be investigated or prosecuted for criminal wrongdoing, it is completely misplaced that presidents have a veil of constitutional protection from criminal prosecution through immunity while in office.
“One of the concrete goals of the Tonse Alliance, which has yet to be attended to, was to remove presidential immunity from criminal prosecution. This promise was pronounced under the campaign agenda of the alliance.
“This is the time to amend the Constitution of Malawi in order to remove the immunity which presidents of this country enjoy under Section 91(2) of the Constitution so that everyone in Malawi can be prosecuted for criminal wrongdoing,” he said.
Chakwera was sworn in on June 28 2020.