Lilongwe – Civil society leaders in Malawi have called on the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and government to respect the law of law and constitution following revelations that DPP cabinet ministers are in the secret meetings to decide who runs the country following the reported illness of president Mutharika. The civil society leaders said they are worried with information that the cabinet is trying to influence the army or the Chief Justice to take over government duties in the absence of the president.

“We can assure you that this country is not in a political crisis but a succession crisis following the reports of Mutharika’s illness,” said chairperson of the CSO Rev MacDonald Semberka. He said “The constitution provides that the vice president takes over leadership in case the president is incapacitated or dies.” Government officials have not come out in the open over the condition of the 78 year old economist turned politician who suffered a cardiac arrest yesterday and was flown to South Africa for treatment.

“We would like to call on the office of the speaker of parliament to expedite the process of announcing that the vice president Joyce Banda takes over leadership as stipulated in the constitution,” said Benedicto Kondowe warning that failing to do that will force the civil society to move the courts and take unspecific actions.

Catholic Commission for Peace and Justice (CCJP) official Peter Chinoko said according to the constitution it was only the vice president who can call for a cabinet meeting or command the police or the army in the absence of the president. “Any cabinet meeting that is not called for by the president or his vice is invalid,” he said. Another civil rights leader Martha Kwataine said the Office of the Speaker of Parliament and the Chief Justice should avoid creating a political crisis by holding the citizens in suspense or trying to put in office people not supported by the constitution.

Other members warned that puting other people other than the one supported by the constitution who amount in a coup. Billy Mayaya asked DPP officials not to create chaos where such could be avoided On suggestions that the civil society groups were trying to force the vice president to take over leadership when she was booted from the DPP, Peter Chinoko said unlike President Mutharika who ditched the United Democratic Front (UDF) the party that sponsored him into power to form the DPP creating a political crisis, the current situation and calls were supported by the constitution. “This situation is different from that scenario because unlike what happened in 2004, the constitution provides for the vice president to take over,” he said.

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