Private practice lawyer Justin Dzonzi who is also chairperson of the taxpayer-funded Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) and constitutional law expert Edge Kanyongolo have dismissed calls by Forum for National Development (FND) Speaker of Malawi’s National Assembly Richard Msowoya to resign for joining United Transformation Movement (UTM) as “misguided”.
FND, which is reportedly being bankrolled by the State machinery, last Tuesday said the Speaker should resign within seven days, saying he has lost legal authority to apply section 65 (1) of the country’s constitution which prohibits Members of Parliament (MPs) from crossing the floor.
FND National Coordinator Fryson Chozi, Chairperson Bright Kampawundi and a concerned citizen Philip Kamangira argued that by joining UTM – a political movement being led by State Vice President Saulos Chilima – Msowoya has crossed the floor and violated Section 65 of the Constitution.
But Dzonzi said Msowoya has joined a movement that has no representation in Parliament as the law punishes MPs who voluntarily quit political parties that sponsored them to parliament and join another party also represented in the National Assembly.
Section 65 (1) reads, “The Speaker shall declare vacant the seat of any member of the grouping in National Assembly who was, at the time of his or her election, a member of one political party represented in the National Assembly, other than by that member alone but who has voluntarily ceased to be a member of that party or has joined another political party represented in the National Assembly, or has joined any other political party, or association or organization whose objectives or activities are political in nature”.
Dzonzi said the “critical element” is that the party or the association he has joined must have its own members of parliament “in order for it to have the capacity to be joined in terms of Section 65 or to be crossed over to.”
On his part, constitutional law expert Kanyongolo said the law is very clear that those members of parliament who joined a political party or grouping outside parliament cannot be affected by Section 65 of the Republican Constitution.
“The resignation in this case is voluntary. What the Forum for National Development is asking the Speaker is just to resign. He can resign or not but he is not breaking any law,” said Kanyongolo.
Kanyongolo said declaration of parliamentary seats vacant and resignation are two different things.
“We should not read too much out of this. If the Speaker does not want to resign, there is no problem,” he said.
Political commentator Humphrey Mvula has also trashed the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) connected FND’s calls for Speaker to resign, saying this would harm the DPP most than the United Transformation Movement.
Mvula said the DPP would be the worst hit if Section 65 is revoked.
“The FND is just doing a master’s job. The DPP has Uladi Mussa, Ralph Jooma and Christopher Ngwira in the party and many others from PP and UDF. Everyone would be affected if Section 65 is used,” he said.
Spokesperson for the Malawi Congress Party Maurice Munthali said the party would welcome any challenge in court if the FND does it legally and procedurally.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :