Law expert says Malawi Parliament can meet without ministers

Law expert Justin Dzonzi  has said there is a possibility for Malawi National Assembly to meet without ministers.

Malawi National Assembly will meet from Monday next week (October 21) to debate several issues amoung them the current looting of public finances.

The Office of the Speaker of Parliament made the announcement about the meeting on Monday.

President Joyce Banda dissolved cabinet last week following financial maladministration at Capital Hill.

However, Executive Director of Justice Link Justin Dzonzi said though there is a possibility that parliament can meet without ministers it would be prudent enough for the Malawi leader to appoint a cabinet before the august house meets.

Dzonzi: It’s posisble for parliament to meet in abscense of ministers

“It is possible for the president to call for the meeting of parliament in the absence of ministers as they are not part of the National Assembly definition,” said Dzonzi adding: “Parliamentary description only recognizes the president and Members of Parliament (MPs).”

He, however said the seating itself would be quite tricky as it would be difficult for parliament to define who should respond on behalf of the ministries though parliament can source ministerial level responses by inviting representatives.

Following the announcement that Parliament meets on Monday next week, President Banda is likely to expedite the appointment of a new cabinet.

At a press briefing she conducted on Wednesday last week the Malawi leader indicated her willingness to have the new Assets Declarartion Bill discussed by the Malawi August house as soon as possible following calls from the public to have her assets declared.

“I asked the country’s vice president to meet the speaker of parliament to move the November seating of parliament to this month so that the new assets declaration bill can be deliberated and be passed,” indicated Banda when she addressed the country’s news men upon her return from the United States where she addressed the United Nations General Assembly.

However, questions were raised on Thursday by sections of the society as to whether the president’s wish to have a quick seating of parliament this month was to materialise following the firing of all government ministers pending the appointment of a new cabinet at the president’s discretion.



While attesting to Dzonzi’s observations, political analyst Mustapher Hussein said though the president can summon parliament without ministers, it would be better to appoint a cabinet before the seating to take care of ministerial business to avoid the dilemma that the situation might create.

He added that the parliamentary seating would be normal as Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) would appoint personal to respond on behalf of ministries.

“Though the situation has never happened in the country’s history, it is possible for the august house to meet without a cabinet and the OPC will have the discretion to appointing representatives to respond to ministerial issues,” explained Hussen.

However, Dzonzi, a lawmaker by profession said letting appointed people to respond to ministerial business would be quite tricky as it would depend on the nature of inquiry parliament would be handling at a particular time.

Dzonzi who stressed of having a cabinet in place before parliament convenes said: “The nature of the inquiry would depend on who should be asked to respond to issue in the house as the people would only be able to respond to particular issues.”

Human rights activist Billy Mayaya said people expect the president to act with speed on the new cabinet observing that the new cabinet appointment would also support her efforts in the fight against the looting of public coffers.

Said Mayaya: “The nation is waiting anxiously for the president to appoint a new cabinet as a matter of urgency and these appointments must be done in quickest time possible.

Executive Director for Malawi Health Equity Network Martha Kwataine said having been in politics for a long time, the president would not want to face the implications of going to parliament without a cabinet.

“The reasons for firing the cabinet are justifiable and we commend her for heeding to the cry of the public. She may take some time to ensure that she chooses the right ministers but not much longer to the extent of crippling national affairs.

“I cannot imagine that she will allow parliament to meet before the cabinet is appointed. What would be her interest in doing so if that would create problems for her government,” asked Kwataine observing that appointing a new cabinet on time is of paramount importance regardless of whether parliament is sitting or not.

OPC spokesperson Arthur Chipenda had not responded to a Mana questionnaire which he asked for an input.

However, a well placed government source corroborated calls for the country to put in place a cabinet before parliament seats, noting that the absence of ministers would further create panic even in the officials that might be chosen to represent ministries.

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