Malawi Parliament was nearly thrown into turmoil on the first day of its National Budget meeting Friday morning as opposition legislators demanded the presence of President Peter Mutharika in performing the State-opening of the new session.
Mutharika addressed the House through a recorded message on a video link as a preventive measure of the raging coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Leader of Opposition Lobin Lowe standing on a point of order told the House that it was unconstitutional for the President to be absent from the House when he was supposed to present the State of the Nation Address (Sona).
“Constitutionally there is an obligation for the President to present Sona in the House,” said Lowe.
“My worry is we may end up setting a bad precedent,” he added.
Dowa East member of Parliament (MP) Richard Chimwendo-Banda (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) stood up, querring if the life of the President was more important than that of the members of parliament.
This was after Leader of the House Kondwani Nankhumwa asked the House to waive all standing orders to allow the President read the Sona through recorded video.
But Speaker Catherane Gotani Hara said Health experts advised parliament that Mutharika should not be in the House because the Chamber is not well ventilated and can be a catalyst for covid-19 as the Head of State moves with a large entourage.
Gotani Hara said while there are Constitutional requirements for the President to address the house physically, the Covid-19 situation requires new measures to allow the House to hold some meetings virtually, “its perfectly acceptable.”
Mutharika warned Malawians not to take Covid-19 lightly as it is a killer pandemic devasting the whole world.