Speaker Chimunthu Banda – Incompetence or Sabotage?

The 42nd meeting of the parliamentary session has, typically, not risen without controversy. At the centre of the controversy this time is not the behaviour, or lack thereof, of the dishonourable members of parliament. Save for the unscheduled bout between Mrs Anita Kalinde and Mr Aaron Sangala everything, according to the ruling  DPP’s Dr George Chaponda, went according to script.

For the unsophisticated souls this should read, no single bad law was repealed. Even the most daft spectators know that the DPP government is not serious about repealing those bad laws because they were passed for a purpose. And this is why the government side is rather pleased with itself for the little progress made in this direction.

And what’s more, the DPP managed to sell the masses a dummy with the talk of the 300% salary increment for the parliamentarians, which the government never intended to effect anyway. The unwitting general public has swallowed the bait, hook, line and sinker and the government, or rather President Bingu wa Mutharika, has come out shining as a very prudent and nonsense chap.

Speaker Chimunthu Banda

But all this is not what we want to talk about. Our focus is on how the Office of the Speaker of Parliament played its role with respect to presiding over proceedings in the house and handling of issues like questions from the honourable members to various ministers. For the sake of those not completely in the picture, we will recount one illustrative fiasco – in brief.

Last Sunday’s editions of Malawi biggest dailies, the Nation and the Times, carried a story whose substance is that the signature of Mzimba South MP Paul Shaba was forged and appended to a question asking the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) to abolish the office of the Vice President in Malawi. The forged question passed all the tests and found itself on the order paper of Friday, November 9.

Honourable Paul Shaba has since washed his hands of both the question and the signature. He says the question could not have come from him because as a lawyer by profession, he could never ask such a ‘foolish question’ aware as he is that that the office of Vice President is a Constitutional office which cannot be abolished through a mere request to a minister.

The first question that arises, in this connection is: which idiot forged the good MP’s signature and what was this idiot hoping to gain from such a villainous act? The second is: how did this criminal act succeed to the extent of the ‘foolish question’ finding its way to the Order Paper of Friday, November 9?

The third and most worrisome is: if every Jack and Jill out there can scribble some trash, forge MP’s signatures and such nonsense finds its way, unchecked, to parliamentary order papers, what is there to protect the integrity of the honourable members whose signatures are forged?

We will pause on this last question. The MP caught up in this saga is Paul Shaba, formerly of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) who is a celebrated hero for the bravery he displayed by selflessly vehemently rejecting the infamous Injunctions Bill in June 2011. Not one to associate with tyranny, he has since moved to opposition benches in parliament. This, in the blue eyes of the vengeful DPP, makes him a perfect target of sleaze, blackmail and what have you.

If this is not enough reason to point fingers for the forgery to DPP operators, one might want to check the odds of the perpetrator of this forgery picking Honorable Shaba’s name randomly. 1 to 193 are the odds and this, is a very long shot! This was definitely a concerted and coordinated effort meant to drag the brave MP’s name in the mud. To put the final nail on the coffin, the Speaker`s lack of urgency and seriousness in investigating the scandal, speaks volumes.

Putting this in plain language: this is DPP payback – with interest – for his standing up – “nga nga nga” – for his principles on the Injunction nonsense that the DPP bulldozed through parliament against all advice and public sentiment.

Further, the fact that “Operation Smoke out Shaba” has taken the face of a forgery is not surprising at all. No sane Malawian has or will ever forget the forged “suicide notes” that state machinery flaunted as purported evidence of Robert Chasowa’s “suicide”. Forgery and the DPP are fast becoming inseparable bed-fellows.

Having set the context, let us come back to Mr Chimunthu Banda – the Speaker. The seriousness and reckless abandon which Chimunthu Banda has adopted in his bid to become “a star performer” in the DPP boot-licking marathon is nothing short of amazing. First, he is failing to impartially discharge his duties. Again, he denied legitimate citizens their right to assemble. Finally his institution is more or less aiding and abetting forgery by failing to act resolutely when one of its honourable members has cried foul.

This suggests two things. Either Chimunthu is determined to boot-lick regardless of the fact that the one wearing the boots (the boots he insists on licking) is sinking, knee-dip, in a pigsty. Or it suggests that Chimunthu is running his own game on the side – with none the wiser – which we proceed to explain below.

There is a strong rumour that Chimunthu wants to jump the sinking titanic. Perhaps before he jumps ship, he wants to be absolutely sure that the DPP hits the bottom, fast and irreparably, like the legendary titanic itself.

If this is Chimunthu’s game – it might work – no-one in the DPP seems to be reading him. His shameless bias in the house, his trampling on the right to assembly and his condoning forgery will all, without fail, accelerate the DPP’s nose-dive to the abyss.

One is actually tempted to say – keep it up Mr Speaker, “uko ndiye kubwera”.

If, on the other hand, he is merely trying to sustain his newfound image of boot-licker par excellence and being used to tarnish the image of MPs that have left the sinking titanic, then he has another think coming.

He must have, by now, listened to the leaked conversation of the DPP presidential candidate. He should not cheat himself – his days in DPP are numbered because the Mutharikas are not known to use the same condom twice. This is simply not part and parcel of the Mutharikas modus operandi.

A word of advice therefore: Mr Speaker Sir, borrow a leaf from the biblical crooked steward and use your current position to ensure that when you are out of the DPP – one way or another – the masses should look at you, in the least, as a man of his honour.

But whatever and whichever the case, getting associated or failing to resolutely expose and deal with crimes like forgery in parliament is definitely not the way to earn or regain lost respect.

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