Opposition MPs’ protest of wearing ‘beautifully’ tailored rags receives public backlash 

Members of Parliament (MPs) have received a backlash from the public through social media over their decision by the opposition to wear ‘beautifully’ tailored suits made from sacks, as a show of rags purportedly claiming that they are being worn by the poor.

This was in protest even before they had heard what was contained in President Lazarus Chakwera’s  State of Nation Address (SONA) which was to be delivered in the National Assembly.

In his reaction, renowned social issues commentator, Wati Mkandawire posted a picture on Facebook of one of the MPs who posed in the suit made from sacks and standing beside an expensive plasma TV.

He wrote: “A poverty-stricken suffering MP with plasma TV and can afford to waste money to go to a tailor to make a suit he will never wear again.

“The irony: Please don’t mock the poor. There are better ways of protesting against wrong policies and be on the side of the poor, rather than using ‘allowances’ to show you can afford throwing away tax payers money.”

While Gilbert Kachepa said: “Ironically, they have put on fashionably made sack clothes! Real concerned honourables couldn’t spend thousands of kwachas on those fashionable sack clothes, yet their constituents are dying of hunger!”

An opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) member, Eric Mpuluka also censured the action, saying if this is what the DPP can christen as being its mandate for checks and balances, then surely Malawians would not vote for the party come 2025 elections.

He also said this was wasting taxpayers money yet their constituents lack basic developments which they pledged to provide.

Boma kuti liyende bwino limafunika Opposition ya mphamvu ndiponso ya nzeru, osati ya mbuzi zokha zokha zomabvala ziguduli ngati izi (government needs a very strong opposition with creative minds to provide solutions and not the sill act of wearing rags). DPP MP’s, shame on you!

Meanwhile, the MPs were ordered by Speaker of Parliament Catherine Gottani Hara to leave the chambers because of their dressing after a point of order from Ntchisi South legislator, Ulemu Chilapondwa.

But in a twist of events, the Speaker suspended her rulling on the dress code following guidance from deputy Leader of the House, Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, who advised that the august House should rather focus on the main business of the day being the SONA and refer the dress code to the Legal Affairs Committee.

Meanwhile, the public asked if the MPs sought consent from their constituents to dress like the poor with Stanley Njoloma saying: “They are not doing for the sake of poor Malawians but to gain their political millage.”

Samuel Mfune asked if there had been “anything good” that the MPs have ever brought to move the country forward while Patrice Mpulula advised the legislators that the best “they would have done is to boycott Parliamentary sittings [and not] not associate with failures”, adding that the dress code protest was witless.

But Kaula Fiskani disagreed with Mpulula, saying “even boycotting is also irresponsible” but they should have opted “to listen to the SONA and argue, give direction and show that [President Chakwera] has failed”.

Isaac Jangale said as part of the protest, the MPs should also boycott their fat salaries and allowances and donate to the poor and not this imprudent protest.

Which Humphrey Mkwamba agreed, saying: “Wearing sackcloth is a minor solution, maybe they could have requested the government to reduce their salaries and allowances and then proceeded to the other burning issues.”

Matteo Mwaungulu joined in to say indeed Chakwera’s failures have been documented “but we haven’t seen anything coming from the so-called Opposition members as a sign of making the government do what is needed as their role in Parliament requires”.

“Wearing ziguduli doesn’t give the impression that they have done better than the President. Let them bring facts on the ground and not kungovala ziguduli akatelo akalandile allowance (not to wear rags where at the end of the day they will receive fat allowances).”

Hakeem Nyirenda said: “They need to be reminded of the code of dressing for Parliament. Otherwise, they are part of the failed system because they are failing to provide checks and balances on our behalf.”

Several other commentators asked the MPs to provide the developments they initiated in their catchment areas while Waddington Msowoya saying: “politicians are mere attention seekers who can do anything just to win our hearts. Wearing of such jackets won’t change anything, but rather bring in more chaos and drama in Parliament. Instead of focusing on real issues affecting us these guys are busy kusokesa ma NPK jackets, for what?”

Thoko Martin also described the dress code as “weak minds from opposition side. Why they can’t they oppose using their brains. Wearing such kind of clothes will not bring good governance in Malawi”.

Morgan Kamanja observed that “opposition MPs have for the past two years failed to oppose constructively and responsibly. In fact, opposition block is far much worse than the government side. As it stands now, Chakwera is still an eyed man among the blind”.

Fabiano Kanyang’wa said: “As long as they’ll receive their sitting allowance, this is nothing but useless public stunt” but even before he had listened to Chakwera’s speech, Kanyang’wa believed he would not present a SONA that could inspire Malawians, saying: “Gone are the days when SONA used to have a hype.”

The public gallery before the SONA

Makonnen Arthur Ndaona asked the Opposition they “must work on holding this government accountable”, adding that all the recent scandals “must be debated in Parliament to force this government to act despite some of them being involved”.

“Opposition must pull up their socks and be vigilant — we have never had the weakest opposition since multiparty as this one led by DPP. In this 50th session, we must see a change; frustrate this government; capitalise on the useless SONA which is yet to be presented. It’s going to be empty anyway — everyone knows.”

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