February 10, 2006

Mutharika's former deputy to challenge his dismissal

Malawi's former Vice President, Cassim Chilumpha, is to challenge his "dismissal", a spokesman for the United Democratic Front (UDF) has announced. President Bingu wa Mutharika, accusing Chilumpha of insubordination, running a "parallel government" and failure to perform his duties, announced that his deputy had resigned. Relations between Chilumpha, the only remaining UDF member of the cabinet, and Mutharika have been strained since 2005. Mutharika had stood for president on a UDF ticket but quit the party to form the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

UDF spokesman Sam Mpasu said Chilumpha was refuting the fact that he had resigned and said Mutharika did not have the power to fire the vice-president. "He [Chilumpha] has not resigned and his lawyers are now challenging this dismissal in court." In a statement, Mutharika accused Chilumpha of "discrediting" the government, adding that "cabinet is, therefore, obliged to construe that by abandoning your responsibilities you have, accordingly, resigned from your position as vice-president of the republic of Malawi".

President of the Malawi Law Society Alick Msowoya explained that if the vice-president had merely resigned then the president would have to appoint a replacement, but noted that Mutharika did not have the authority to fire Chilumpha for failure to perform his duties.
In terms of Malawi's constitution, the president or vice-president can only be removed from office if they have been "indicted and convicted by impeachment", Msowoya commented. (Rts / The Nation, Lilongwe)

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