National Assembly has adopted guidelines on the procedure to be followed in asking the Malawi leader questions as President Lazarus Chakwera is set to be the country’s second leader to face His Excellency’s Question Time (HEQs) style-session from Members of parliament this coming Thursday in Lilongwe.
First president in the multiparty era, Bakili Muluzi, was the first to face the then Leader of Opposition Gwanda Chakuamba in an exciting and historic question time during his first term from 1994 to 1999.
While Muluzi did the exercise on three occasions, his successor late Bingu wa Mutharika vehemently refused to appear before the 193 strong House to fulfil the constitutional requirement.
Joyce Banda , who ascended to the presidency in 2012 following Bingu’s death, never attempted to appear before Parliament and the immediate former president Peter Mutharika who ruled the country from 2014 to 2020, delegated twice to the then Leader of the House George Chaponda to answer questions mostly filed by Leader of Opposition in parliament.
The Business Committee of Parliament, chaired by the Speaker of Parliament Catherine Gotani Hara and comprises leaders of political parties represented in the National Assembly, came up with the guidelines for the HEQs.
“The President may be asked questions about matters of national and international importance by members of the Assembly. These may include matters for which the government us responsible, excluding matters for which a line minister is directly responsible,” reads the guidelines in part.
Chakwera will also take questions from MPs from the dispatch box seated on the government side and not where the President sits on the high chair when addressing the House, according to the guidelines.
Where the Vice-President wishes ti be present during HEQs, the guidelines provide that he shall have a seat reserved next to the President.
The guidelines further indicate that notice of the questions to the President shall be submitted by a member to the Speaker and a maximum of six working days shall be allowed before the Head of State answers the questions.
The Business Committee will also examine the notices of the questions before they are forwarded to the President.
“Questions on written notice to the President to be taken on a Wednesday at least twice in each Meeting of the Assembly,” says the guidelines.
The guidelines also show that Question Time for the President shall last for one hour 30 minutes.
A maximum of 5 questions shall be taken on each sitting day for the President’s Question Time and three supplementary questions shall be allowed on any of the five original questions to the President.
Some of the rules under Standing Order 70 (b) dealing with Section 89 (3) (c) states:
During a Budget Meeting of the Assembly, and immediately before consideration of the Budget Estimates, the President shall attend Parliament to respond to questions asked and raised during debate on the State of the Nation Address.
Meanwhile, deputy chairperson for the Legal Affairs Committee of parliament Peter Dimba presented to the House a review of standing orders and procedures to be followed for the HEQs.
Dimba clarified that the President under section 89 subsection 4 will be summoned to answer questions on Wednesday by way of motion when members of parliament can invite the Malawi leader to face HEQs come to Parliament and give him a notice of six days and give a maximum of five questions.
Said Dimba:“However section 89 sub section 3 the Constitution says the President shall come to parliament after presentation of SONA and before the national budget is actually presented and so this happens to be on a Thursday that’s the second scenario”.
Mzimba south’ Emmanuel Jere hailed the orderly manner detailing how the exercise should be conducted which he said marked a new direction for the country.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :