Malawi Parliament nod to JB’s speech after initial resistance from vexed opposition

Malawi Parliament on Wednesday had to vote to adopt the speech delivered by President Joyce Banda at the official opening of the 44th session of parliament.

Adoption of a State of the Nation address is made by popular acclamation. But there was drama when the motion was received with a deafening ‘no’ from the opposition benches after the government side’s ‘weak’ yes vote, which clearly showed how depleted the side is, in terms of numbers.

Speaker of Parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda had to summon a roll call vote for its adoption .

The results showed that the majority who voted adopted the speech. 90 members including Leader of Opposition John Tembo voted to approve the speech and UDF president and Machinga North East MP Atupele Muluzi. The two received loud applause after casting their vote.

Parliament adopts State of the Nation address
Parliament adopts State of the Nation address

There were 39 MPs who voted ‘no’ while 52 members including opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) acting president Peter Mutharika were absent. Mutharika walked out of the House before voting.

DPP didn’t approve most of what President Banda said in her address, saying that the current administration is just implementing economic reforms that were left by late president Bingu WA Mutharika.

However, some DPP members voted ‘yes’. Theyincluded Thyolo Thava MP Lifred Nawena, Zomba Central MP Yunusu Mussa, Mchinji West MP Thereza Mwale, Lilongwe City South East MP Agness Penumulungu and Thyolo Central’s Kingsley Namakhwa.

There were 11 lawmakers who abstained from voting.

Members of Parliament (MPs) are pushing government to implement the 500 litres a month each fuel allowances as agreed upon in 2008. They also want the allowances to be paid in arrears dating back to 2009.

The government side has seen its numbers dwindle since the House was opened on February 8, because several MPs have jumped ship and gone back to their parties. Most of the MPs leaving are from the former ruling DPP.

After the President’s address was adopted, government started tabling Bills with the Gender Equality Bill, almost 12 years after the proposed bill was conceived.

Malawi lawmakers have been pushing government to implement the conditions of service approved in 2008.

But President Banda has vowed that government will not bow down to demands by legislators to get K10 million (about $27 778) in fuel allowances backdated to 2009.

Mango chi Central MP Clement Chiwaya (UDF) accused the President of seeking public sympathy by insinuating that the MPs were demanding K10 million each.

He said: “But let me say here that pronouncements at public rallies will not buy any political sympathy. We are aware that our conditions of service are the only ones that do not get respect. Ministers get 1 000 litres of fuel a month and [their] deputies 750 litres each. Do we hear any quacking around?”

Chiwaya, who is also UDF chief whip, also said it is not true that the MPs are demanding K10 million in fuel allowances despite that there were grievances that the MPs have. He said the issues have since been channeled to their employer, which is government.

The UDF chief whip also attacked President Banda’s frequent travels, the political prostitution which he said is destroying the country and the distribution of free maize which he labelled as “cheap campaign tactics”.

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