Hopes of ridding Malawi of corruption about to hit wall as 13 government mps risk losing seats
Thirteen cabinet ministers risk losing their parliamentary seats should Speaker Louis Chimango pass the verdict in favour of the United Democratic Front’s (UDF) demand, a development analysts said would further weaken President Bingu wa Mutharika’s already fragile government.
The Speaker’s ruling, temporarily halted by the court after government obtained an injunction seeking an interpretation of Section 65, will affect Agriculture Minister Uladi Mussa, who is also vice president of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Justice Minister and Blantyre Rural East MP Henry Phoya and Information Minister and Mulanje west MP Patricia Kaliati.
Others facing the chop are Chiradzulu East MP Henry Mussa who is also Vocational Training minister, Phalombe East MP Ken Lipenga, Youth Minister and MP for Machinga East Jafali Mussa, Mines Minister and MP for Nkhotakota North Chimunthu Banda, Water Minister and MP for Chikwawa Nkombezi Sidik Mia and Joyce Banda—MP for Zomba Malosa and Minister of Gender.
Also facing dismissal are Local Government Minister and MP for Mulanje South West George Chaponda, Mzimba South East MP and Deputy Defence Minister Khumbo Kachale, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and MP for Thyolo West Thomson Mchacha and Roy Cummsy Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and MP for South East.
“We asked the Speaker to declare the seats for 12 former UDF MPs vacant for crossing the floor except for Davis Katsonga because he was expelled,” UDF spokesperson Sam Mpasu said on Wednesday.
The UDF petition to the Speaker also includes Dedza South West MP Kate Kainja (MCP) who is also Minister of Education but does not petition the Speaker on other MPs such as Brown Mpinganjira, who joined the UDF after dissolving NDA.
The controversial Section 65, gives the Speaker powers to declare vacant seats for any MP who voluntarily resigns from a party that sponsored his candidature or any MP who joins another party other than the one that sponsored him or her.
Analysts this week said if the Speaker kicks out 13 Ministers, it will render the government powerless, and further worsen the political impasse.
Last month Britain urged the opposition to hold off the impeachment debate because they said it was distracting government at a time of a major food crisis. Five million Malawians need food aid.
“This would leave the President in a tight corner and the only thing he can do is either intensify his campaign in the areas he knows he is strong or reach out to the opposition because he needs their support,” Chancellor College political science lecturer Mustafa Hussein said.
Another Chancellor College political science lecturer Boniface Dulani said Mutharika’s minority government is heavily reliant on the cabinet ministers who quit UDF. “To lose them would be a major blow to Mutharika’s chances of regaining power in the House.”
Dulani said the result will also have an effect on donor confidence to deal with government.
The High Court on Monday lifted the five-day injunction obtained by government restraining the Speaker from passing the verdict on the 13 ministers.
Personal Assistant to the Speaker Henry Kamata said on Thursday the Speaker will make the ruling on Section 65 when Parliament reconvenes any time.
“It is just fear of the unknown because we don’t know what his verdict is…but that will be known anytime Parliament reconvenes,” Kamata said. We were not able to talk to Chimango as he was reported to be outside the country.
Two courts, the Constitutional Court and the High Court are yet to decide on the interpretation of Section 65, which has been controversial in the recent past.
Malawi Law Society declined to discuss the interpretation of Section 65 because it is in the courts.
Parliament in August rejected MCP president John Tembo’s proposal to amend the section to include members that decide to become independent candidates.
The application against the 13 ministers is the latest twist in a power struggle between Mutharika and his predecessor Bakili Muluzi whose party wants Mutharika impeached.
Mutharika quit the UDF in September last year. Twenty-two executive members of UDF also dumped the UDF and joined Mutharika’s DPP.