Nnesa tussle Kasambara in Malawi Parly over hotel deal: Peermont contract

Balaka South MP George Nnensa tussled with Ministers of Justice Ralph Kasambara in parliament on Tuesday when he queried Malawi Government on the awarding of a management contract to the newly constructed five-star hospitality complex in Lilongwe which includes The President’s Hotel, to South Africa’s Legacy Holdings, whose bid earlier failed to impress authorities.

Nnesa querried Minister of Tourism and Culture Rachel Zulu to explain “why and how the contract with Peermont was cancelled and why Legacy, who were not recommended on two occasions, have been given this contract against professional advice from the tender evaluators?”

The complex also comprises the Bingu International Conference Centre. There are also Presidential Villas located along the Presidential Drive as part of the complex, albeit at a distance.

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Nnesa: Representing the interest of Malawians

News has been rife in the local newspapers in the awarding of a contract to manage the Bingu International Conference Centre, the President Hotel and the Presidential Villas.  These structures have transformed Lilongwe and will hugely boost Malawi’s ability to hold international conference and tourism.  However, they are being grossly underutilized,” said the upfront lawmaker.

Nnensa demanded an explanation from government on whether the country’s taxpayers would not end up paying huge sums of money to compensate another South African firm, Peermont Global Propriety Limited, which earlier won the deal.

“We are concerned with the various stories we are getting regarding the awarding and cancellation of the managing contract of the hotel.  We, as Malawians, have invested a lot in these structures because it is a loan.  We do not want to spend unnecessary money in paying for cancelled contracts to underserving operators,” he said.

Nnesa said he was “representing the interest of Malawians.”

But Minister of Justice, Ralph Kasambara said under standing orders subjudice rule the matter could not be discussed in the House because it’s in court.

“Any matter that is pending before court or pending adjudication is sub judice and that is a matter that Peermont has referred the matter to their lawyers Sacranie Gow and Company who are liaising the matter with our lawyers in Attorney General Chambers. Therefore, the matter cannot be debated in the House pending court adjudication,” said Kasambara – Seniour Counsel.

Nnensa demanded evidence from Kasambara that the matter was indeed in court.

“I am not aware that the matter is in court.  What I know is that the lawyers have written to government and the government has not responded.  The matter is not in court yet,” said Nnesa.

But Kasambara hit back: “ We are telling him what the facts are that the matters are being handled by lawyers.  He is not aware indeed, because he is not one of the agents. He should represent his people, the nationals of this country but not pretend to be an agent of a particular person of a matter that is being handled by proper agents, Sacranie and Gow.”

Nnesa demanded Kasambara “to bring evidence into the Chamber that the matter is in court; because I am sure that the information being given is not right.”

Outspoken Thyolo Thava DPP lawmaker Lifred Nawena also added his voice to the issue.

“ I think we should make a clear distinction between matters that are already in court and information that can seriously be made available to this House.  What could be wrong for the Minister concerned updating this House on what has happened that has led to matters going to court and stop there?

“I think it is unfair to this House to simply say matters are in court. Some of us do not know anything about what is happening. Why doesn’t he give us an update and say this is what has happened and things have reached this and this?,” said Nawena,

The First Deputy Speaker Jones Chingola insisted that under Standing Order 224, matters in court cannot be discussed in the House.

But Nawena snapped: “No, it is not right, Mr. First Deputy Speaker, Sir. What we cannot do is to debate. But he can give us an update. We cannot debate. What is wrong with giving us an update?”

Kasambara  reacted saying, “ it is unfortunate that after the Speaker has made a ruling, Members can continuously harass the Speaker on the very same issue. If the Members of Parliament are seriously aggrieved by their own Standing Orders here, the answer lies in amending the Order. Amend Standing Order 224 to reflect what the Honourable Member for Thyolo Thava is saying and then we will go by it.

“But as of now, we are supposed to be an august House; a House of rules or procedures that have to be followed and one of them is Standing Order 224(1) and we cannot make an exception simply because one person strongly believes that they need particular information on a particular issue. That is not how things go.  We must go by our own rules that we say we are going to follow and we should follow them.”

The First Deputy Speaker then ruled  the matter cannot be discussed in the House.

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