Malawi ruling PP queries Speaker on Section 65 conduct

Malawi’s governing Peoples Party (PP) has described as questionable the conduct of Speaker of Parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda for exercising his powers to revoke Section 65 of the Malawi Constitution, which bars members of parliament from crossing the floor with his first victim being Blantyre Bangwe legislator Henry Mpofu Shawa.

PP Deputy Publicity Secretary, Ken Msonda said in an email on Wednesday, said the general public is wondering and looking for answers on why the Speaker decided to invoke the controversial law on Shawa now.

Chimunthu said he made his ruling  on Shawa  based on a UDF petition of June 19, 2012 which argued that the legislator was elected to Parliament on UDF ticket, but had resigned from the party and that on the ground of Section 65 he has crossed the floor.

Shawa won Blantyre-Bangwe constituency on UDF ticket and defected to Democratic Progressive party (DPP) and now is with People’s Party.

Msonda: Why only Shawa
Msonda: Why only Shawa

“As a ruling party, we believe in a democratic dispensation pronouncement (s) coming from any of the three arms of government; Executive, Legislature and Judiciary have to be respected and adhered. However it raises eyebrows as to why the Speaker did not rule on Section 65 on Hon H.M. Shaba and others during the DPP administration,” commented Msonda.

Msonda said PP shall always uphold, respect and defend the Constitution while arguing that Chimunthu Banda was right to act on Shawa since he had not obtained injunction restraining him after UDF petitioned his office.

“Section 65 is part of our Republican Constitution concerning one arm of government; Legislature. UDF petitioned the Speaker when Hon H.M. Shaba joined DPP and the Parliamentarian never obtained an injunction to prevent the Speaker from ruling on Section 65.”

There has been growing pressure for the Speaker to invoke provisions of Section 65 of the Constitution and his action has sent shivers to most MPs especially those who defected from the DPP to PP after the death of former President Bingu  wa Mutharika in April last year.

The affected MPs from DPP got an injunction restraining the Speaker from going ahead in declaring their seats vacant despite the Malawi Supreme Court ruling that declared that if an MP from a political party represented in parliament joins another political party also represented in parliament crosses the floor and the seat should be declared vacant to seek fresh mandate from the people.

Section 65.–(1) of the Malawi constitution stipulates that “the Speaker shall declare vacant the seat of any member of the 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 and has joined another political party represented in the National Assembly.”

There are fears that the Joyce Banda government may fall if the Speaker invokes Section 65 on the other members from the DPP who joined PP who include some influential cabinet ministers as it will have no more than 10 MPs on its side, thereby failing to conduct government business in the national Assembly.

Meanwhile, Rumphi East MP Albert Thindwa, who was on the government side, has gone back to the DPP and requested to be allocated a seat on the opposition side

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