Madam Speaker, declare vacant seats of MPs crossing the floor 

Section 65 of the Constitution is very clear about Members of Parliament (MPs) who defect to other political parties.

Speakers procession in Parliament on Friday.(C) Govati Nyirenda

It states: “The Speaker shall declare vacant the seat of any member of the National Assembly who was, at the time 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 and has joined another political party represented in the National Assembly.”

However, over the years various speakers of the National Assembly have let down the electorate by deliberately ignoring Section 65. For example, Felix Jumbe the former Malawi Congress Party  MP for Salima Central and Uladi Mussa People’s Party for Salima South joined the ruling  Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 2018.  Surprisingly, the Speaker failed to declare their seats vacant for reasons one could not understand.

Many MPs who defect to the governing party are looking for personal benefits such as contracts, tenders and other business opportunities and not serving their voters or the country as they claim. Some receive bribes to a make a switch while others want to run away from criminal prosecution. How can an MP say they have decided to join the ruling party because they want to work or assist government to develop the country? Are they not part of government?

Opposition MPs are part of government. They promote democracy and good governance by providing checks and balances to the executive. The framers of the constitution included Section 65 for good reasons one of which is to prevent MPs from cheating their constituents. Many Malawian MPs like kulya (eating).  And because they lack an ideological base, they easily abandon their constituents to follow where the money is. These political opportunists have nothing to offer Malawians except to chase personal gains.

Why should a candidate who vigorously campaigned and won an election on a party ticket suddenly change their political allegiance when their political party fail to get into government? And why should an MP only defect to the governing party and after an election?

Malawi is coming from an acrimonious fresh presidential election held on 23 May 2020.  It is an open secret that DPP MPs vehemently defend their party and Peter Mutharika to remain in power during the campaign period. They waged a verbal war against MCP and UTM in an attempt to frustrate the electorate to vote for change.  Now they have the audacity to announce to the world that they have switched their allegiance to either MCP or UTM from DPP. They must lose their parliamentary seats!

MPs and the Speaker should be reminded that there is already a ruling by the High Court and the Supreme Court against crossing the floor.

“In 2005 MPs from both Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and the United Democratic Front (UDF) crossed the floor to the newly formed Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of President Bingu wa Mutharika. However, the UDF wrote the Speaker in October 2005 requesting him to declare MPs’ seats vacant. The High Court judges ( Twea, Potani, and Kapanda) held the validity of Section 65 of the Constitution and ruled that the MPs had crossed the floor.

“Unsatisfied with the High Court ruling, President Mutharika, through his lawyers, appealed to the Supreme Court.  On 15 June 2007 the Supreme Court of Appeal, led by former Chief Justice L E Unyolo, J B Kalaile, D G Tambala, I J Mtambo and A K Tembo upheld the High Court.”  (Mtonga:2013)

This is a litmus test for Speaker Catherine Gotani Hara to be decisive enough and declare vacant a seat of any MP who has crossed the floor. She should rise about party politics and uphold the law.  Previous Speakers failed the nation. The Tonse Alliance government has pledged to uphold the law. There is no justification for the Speaker not to declare vacant the seats of MPs who have crossed the floor. It is her constitutional duty to invoke Section 65 whenever an MP crosses the floor. It defeats the purpose of having the law if it is not used. It also sends a wrong signal to the society:  that a person can flout the law and get away with it.

We need to bring sanity to our politics.  MPs who cross the floor undermine the will of the voters, undermine representative democracy and corrupts the political system.  They have to lose their seats and seek fresh mandate from the electorate. Hence, it has to be automatic that if an MP joins another political party a by-election has to be held.

More importantly, MPs have to abide by the rules that they make.  Action has to be taken against those who break the law.  Floor crossing is a “punishable” act.  Malawi degenerated into lawlessness during DPP government because law enforcers abdicated their responsibility. MCP and Tonse Alliance government should refrain from doing this.

Invoking Section 65 will go a long away in restoring public trust which was eroded during DPP government.

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Justice for all
Justice for all
12 days ago

This is really true the habit of crossing the floor should come to an end we don’t want political prostitutes

Prosper
Prosper
12 days ago

If the Constitution is this clear then surely the law must be enforced. What I am not sure of is whether the speaker is the one mandated to initiate the recalling or a motion has to first be tabled before her in parliament.

Hawell
Hawell
12 days ago

Yes i think mps are taking malawians for granted. Time has come that when mps defect to another party immediately the speaker shud invoke section 65 and that the judiciary shud not grant any injunction to such mps and if any grant an injunction the law shud also hammer that judge or magistrate chifukwa tikuchita zibwana kwambiri and if this remain unchecked in the next 10 years or so the country will lawlessness and nyekhwelization will be at pick. Gotani do ur work otherwise there shall be no difference between dpp and tonse alliance

Zio ine
Zio ine
12 days ago

Her party is a benefiary of crosstutes. Yet her president used to say he can not work with people who move from one party to another. Sidik Mia is a highly qualified political prostitute who has been to all ruling parties yet Chakwera chose to work with such a highly contaminated political prostitute.

John chidongo
13 days ago

Big up Madam. You’re such a great thinker. They must stop playing with the voters. Ukhalye waleke, they must stop eating.

Sand
Sand
13 days ago

Agree with a point of them to lose their seats. Oppositions work together with government how can someone switches from opposition to ruling party & say wants to help government to develop country? That’s nosense. These are greedy politicians. They abused mcp & utm before elections of June 23 today they want to be enemies of of their own parties. Let them all dismissed.

Josphat
Josphat
13 days ago

Lero ndiye mufuna section 65?

Kharupa
Kharupa
12 days ago
Reply to  Josphat

This is your party’s litmus test bro, it will set the tone on us doubters whether your leadership will abuse the system for the sake of political expediency.

James mpata
James mpata
13 days ago

People if Karonga Central think deeply and wisely about one Tumpale Frank Mwenefumbo. How many parties has he joined? Aford, DPP, UDF, MCP and now UTM and you think he is seriously representing you?

Concerned citizen
Concerned citizen
13 days ago

Unfortunately, the law is only applying on legislators who were elected through a political party. If you check closely, the legislators who are switching their allegiance were independent at the time of election. The other unfortunate thing is that, the law only applies to political parties with representation in parliament. DPP new as it was at its formation, did not have a representation in parliament at any general election; so, legislators from other parties joined the DPP having noted that loophole. By the way, should the law only apply to legislators when even presidents and the vice may be elected… Read more »

Mziche
Mziche
13 days ago

Reporter, please do your homework, indicate which MPs have crossed the floor and indicate which party they belonged to before defection.

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