Title page for ETD etd-05272011-132657

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Nyondo, James Mbowe
Email nyondo.james68@gmail.com
URN etd-05272011-132657
Document Title Constitutionalism in Malawi 1994-2010 : a critique on theory and practice
Degree LLM
Department Legal History, Comparative Law and Legal Philosophy
Advisor Name Title
Prof K Van Marle Supervisor
  • constitutionalism in Malawi 1994-2010
  • tribal groups
Date 2011-04-11
Availability unrestricted

The various independent chiefdoms that make up present day Malawi had a new constitution imposed over all of them by the British government without their consent. This new superimposed constitution was never really embraced by the various tribal groups. Its tenets were never internalised by the people and this lack of internalisation has continued to this day. The elite of the day decided which principles would govern the country. Successive elite groups in different periods of Malawi’s history have imposed their brand of constitutionalism on a hapless people. They have dutifully put in writing the constitutional principles without intending to apply them.

Malawi is a nation that embraced constitutionalism with one reason only, that is, to gain acceptance from its peers in the international community. Throughout its history from pre-colonial times to the present, the general population has never been involved in framing the principles which govern and shape the destiny of the nation. A small group of people has always decided what the constitution should contain.

The dominant man of the moment (the big man) and his political party decide what constitutionalism is to be. They govern the country through patronage. The president and a small group around him use state resources to promote their agenda often at the expense of the constitution they swore to uphold. The political leaders do not differentiate between resources of the state, the private sector and their ruling party and they often use them to peddle influence to promote their programs that are sometimes in violation of the constitution. When the president “donates” state resources to the poor communities, he tells them that he used his own money to buy the item he is donating, for example an ambulance, and nobody dares to contradict him.

Only in financial matters has the nation demonstrated some marked commitment to the rule of law. The incentive for the government to comply with the law is much higher because about 80 percent of its capital budget is financed from external sources through donations, loans and grants from western nations. Government tends to take action against public officers who do not follow constitutionally laid down principles. Its commitment to the rule of law on social and political governance issues is not consistent. It appears to pick and choose which constitutional principles it will adhere to.

In conclusion, it is difficult for Malawi to experience a government that adheres to the principles of constitutionalism because its widespread poverty helps entrench a system of patronage. This system has created a nation that tolerates serious abuses of its constitution. Transformative constitutionalism appears to offer the best hope for Malawi’s future. The nation needs a judiciary that is more innovative and bold in interpreting, upholding and enforcing its own constitutional tenets. Only then will the nation be on a sound footing to realise the benefits of constitutionalism for its people.

© 2010, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Nyondo, JM 2010, Constitutionalism in Malawi 1994-2010 : a critique on theory and practice, LLM dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-05272011-132657/ >


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