Chiume’s intimidation of MPs who rejected President Banda’s appointees smacks of authoritarianism.

SPECIAL POLITICAL COMMENTARY:

The Daily Times has reported that Government Chief Whip Ephraim Mganda Chiume last week summoned some members of the Public Appointments Committee of Parliament (Pac) who are loyal to ruling People’s Party (PP) and lambasted them for rejecting President Joyce Banda’s recent appointees.

The members confided in daily that their conviction remains that the confirmation of appointees should depend on their qualifications and relevance and not merely based on political discretion.

Chiume, who is also Foreign Affairs Minister, separately confirmed summoning the members, arguing that as government, their expectation is that their representatives in the committee would support the president’s appointments.

Chiume: Smacks of bad old days of authoritarianism

“As government, we have positions on different issues. We take the positions before an issue is discussed, for example at parliamentary committee level.

“After the committee met, I had an audience with our members to find out what had transpired. In fact such meetings are not strange,” Chiume said.

He said he usually meets his members of parliamentary committees and that Pac MPs had briefed him that they had sought clarification on the appointments, “and had not rejected the names”.

A Pac member who spoke to daily immediately after the meeting on Wednesday last week said they “were dressed down for what had transpired in the day. Chiume looked not amused.”

Fast Facts

* Pac rejected the appointment of Assistant Director of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Victor Banda as Deputy Director of the body.

* Pac also demanded clarification from Secretary to the President Bright Msaka on why the government had proposed changes in the composition and leadership of Health Service Commission.

* Pac declined Banda’s appointment of Betty Pwetekani as new member and chairperson of the committee, Reverend Daniel Gunya and a Rose Namarika as members of the committee, arguing that the existing commission is only five months old in office.

* Pac confirmed Jane Kambalame as Malawi High Commissioner to Zimbabwe, replacing Dr Richard Phoya.

* Pac has 22 members drawn from the government side comprising former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) MPs who defected to PP and United Democratic Front members.

Fear:

President Banda is on record as saying that she wants to be told the truth and the whole truth by her appointees and that members of parliament are free to vote using their conscience rather than trying to please her.

The Chief Whip’s behaviour does not seem to be in tandem with the president’s statements. Worse, it implies that the president’s admonition to MPs to use their conscience was just podium rhetoric – something that has not helped Malawi any.

This is worrisome and spells trouble because, in the wake of the bad laws passed by an intimidated parliament, the former president had the audacity to shift the blame to the same cowed parliamentarians in a dismal attempt to wash his hands off the bad laws.

Unfortunately for him, the dirt stayed stuck.

And now here we have the current president saying one thing, while her minister cum chief whip is doing another thing. Bluntly put: he wants committee members who will rubberstamp each and every appointment regardless of merit, due process and decorum.

Would one be wrong to conclude that:

1)   He is the brains behind the recent messy firings that the tax-payer will have to pay once those dismissed go to court to claim what is legally theirs?

2)   He is among those people that Dausi alleged were ill-advising the late president and is again at it on President Joyce Banda?

Way forward:

If the honourable Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has nothing to do, he should focus his attention on the Lake Malawi dispute where his voice is loudly silent. Being heard on this grave issue is the principal secretary when in Tanzania war cries are emanating from people of his stature.

If the honourable minister was doing this intimidation under instructions from President Banda then it is very regrettable. We all know how she personally suffered and refused to be intimated and  she should be the last to force others to act against their conscience.

Final word to the valiant MPs:

Bravo to the MPS that used their guts in vetting the appointments and asking Bright Msaka for the necessary clarification. You are in the process of creating a new era – keep it up and do not be intimidated by misguided chief whips cum overzealous bootlickers.

A culture of promoting merit over patronage has been the missing piece in the jigsaw to Malawi’s sustainable development. Continue on this road, and we will get there.

Salute!

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