Court orders Shawa back in Malawi Parliament: Pending judicial review

The High Court in Mzuzu on Monday ordered Speaker of Parliament, Henry Chimunthu Banda to re-instate Henry Mpofu Shawa as Blantyre Bangwe legislator  pending a judicial review.

Shawa last week obtained a court injunction after the Speaker invoked the anti-defection law, Section 65 for crossing the floor in Parliament.

Making the announce in Parliament, Speaker of the House, Henry Chimunthu Banda said he received communication from the Attorney General (AG) advising him to allow Shawa back in the house.

The statement also stated that the judicial review on the matter taking place at the Mzuzu High Court will be concluded within a period of 28 days.

Shawa: Gets temporary relief from Mzuzu High Court
Shawa: Gets temporary relief from Mzuzu High Court

Shawa, who earlier on promised not to challenge the Speaker’s ruling, won Blantyre-Bangwe constituency on United Democratic Front (UDF) ticket and defected to Democratic Progressive party (DPP) and now is with People’s Party.

He became the first MP to have his seat declared vacant for crossing the floor since the law was last applied a decade ago during UDF’s era when it took its toll on Fred Nseula and Simeon Khanfula.

Section 65 of the constitution empowers the speaker to declare vacant seat of Parliamentarians crossing the floor in Parliament either by joining another political party or becoming independent.

Speaker Chimunthu Banda told Parliament that he has been served with a court order from the Attorney General’s office signed by Senior State Legal Advocate Zolomphi Nkowani to reserve his ruling until conclusion of judicial review.

Chimunthu Banda said following the communiqué, Shawa will only be allowed back in the House until 28 days from February 21, 2013 within which the judicial review will be concluded and court’s deliberation is made.

Banda also told the august House that Energy Minister Ibrahim Matola, Mangochi North East parliamentarian Alfred Mwechumu and Mangochi South West Shabil Asibu have commenced their own legal process of defending themselves from facing the jaws of Section 65.

Alfred Mwechumu of Mangochi North East and Shamil Asibu of Mangochi South West last week rushed to the High Court in Mzuzu where they got injunctions when they saw that the fire was coming their way as they are also on the verge of losing their seats.

Mwechumu, Asibu and Ibrahim Matola who now serves as Energy Minister all were UDF legislators but defected to ruling PP.

There has been growing pressure for the Speaker to invoke provisions of Section 65 of the Constitution and today’s action has sent shivers to most MPs especially those who defected from the DPP to PP after the death of former President Bingu Mutharika in April last year.

The affected MPs from DPP got an injunction restraining the Speaker from going ahead in declaring their seats vacant despite the Malawi Supreme Court ruling that declared that if an MP from a political party represented in parliament joins another political party also represented in parliament crosses the floor and the seat should be declared vacant to seek fresh mandate from the people.

There are fears that the Joyce Banda government may fall if the Speaker invokes Section 65 on the other members from the DPP who joined PP who include some influential cabinet ministers as it will have minority MPs on its side, thereby failing to conduct government business in the national Assembly.

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