Malawi Law Society calls for independence of Attorney General over Section 65

Malawi Law Society (MLS)  president John Gift Mwankhwawa has challenged the office of Attorney General to be impartial and independent to ensure that Speaker of Parliament, Henry Chimunthu Banda, invoke Section 65 on Members of Parliament have defected to the now ruling People’s Party (PP).

Section 65 of the Constitution regulates the crossing of the floor in Parliament and gives power to the Speaker to declare seats of defectors vacant.

However, the executive through lawmaker Chikumbutso Hiwa obtained a court injunction gagging the Speaker from making any pronouncements on the anti-defection law.

Section 65 still alive

According to Mwankhwawa, the Section is of paramount importance to the country’s democracy and any attempts to keep ignoring its implementation are “a threat to democracy and rule of law.”

Makhwawa: Section 65 should be applied

“Our take without necessarily discussing any matters may be in court surrounding the Section is that Section 65 remains a very valid and integral part of our constitution and that  it must be respected,” the MLS president said on Daybreak Malawi programme  monitored by Nyasa Times on Capital FM on Wednesday.

He said if the Section 65 is not respected, the culture of nomadic MPs will not end and that will defeat the essence of democracy where  the country will be “promoting breach of trust as regards their relation with the constituency.”

Makhwawa said:  “Malawian politics,  largely if you  will notice,  is based by on two groups of people. Those that want to consolidate their wealth and those who go to parliament to earn a living.

“Our politics is not principle based. Our politics is purely power based.”

He pointed out that if Section 65 is scrapped, the country is likely to see so many defections after elections.

Attorney General independence

MLS president said the office of the Attorney General should be “impartial and independent office.”

He said the Attorney General  should help the Speaker  to ensure the injunctions obtained against the office are discharged and “ move with speed that there are no impediment to the office  the Speaker.”

Nonetheless, Makhwawa said “there is  no harm in granting injunction on looking on the facts” but said “the machinery must move with speed” to clear the matter.

“The office of the Attorney General must ensure that the courts move with speed in determining the injunctions,” he said.

“We find ourselves in this institution probably because we have failed to strengthen our institution to remain independent,” he added.

“The office of the Speaker has often found its hands tied,” noted MLS president.

He also called on the Speaker to  be impartial and independent and that the Attorney General “must act in public interest.”

A political scientist, Happy Kayuni, who is currently with the University of Western Cape in South Africa, says politicians have over the years tried to manipulate the system.

“The Section has to be invoked. The law is not meant to favour one group against the other”, declared Kayuni, former Head of the Department for the Political and Administrative studies at Chancellor College of the University of Malawi.

He says the conventional approach would be for such MPs to seek fresh mandate through by-election.

DPP fresh petition

Meanwhile, the former governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is sticking to its guns to “vigorously pursue” all MPs who won on its ticket but sits with government in the House.

DPP spokesman Nicholous Dausi confirmed to Nyasa Times that indeed the party has submitted a fresh petition to Speaker, asking him to declare six more seats vacant, for crossing the floor after joining PP.

“DPP seeks to put to an end the culture of peripatetic MPs without seeking fresh mandate,” said Dausi.

Dausi aid the Speaker is mandated to declare any seat vacant if an MP, who became an MP under the ticket of a particular party, decides to abandon that party and join another one in Parliament.

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