It is now bare-knuckle fight between MCP and UTM, two key partners in the Tonse Alliance. MCP admits it has ostracised UTM MPs from its government side groups. UTM says it is watching things as they unfold. That fallout puts the future of the whole alliance in severe test
By Deogratias Mmana
The government side in the National Assembly has stopped inviting UTM Members of Parliament to its caucuses.
This comes barely a week after the government side also kicked out the UTM lawmakers from its forum of Members of Parliament.
A Member of Parliament from UTM told Malawi News: “All UTM MPs until today are totally removed from all government WhatsApp groups and we are not allowed to attend MCP caucuses.”
Malawi News understands that the latest crackdown on the UTM lawmakers comes after they voted against the government on the Banking Amendment Bill.
Leader of the House Richard Chimwendo Banda confirmed yesterday that the UTM lawmakers were indeed kicked out of the government’s official WhatsApp forum where all government members of Parliament discuss issues including the conduct of the business in the National Assembly.
“It is difficult to hold meetings with people with different minds. It is a great worry. It is true they are not invited to caucuses,” Banda said.
On the removal from the group, he said: “They were removed because of the way they voted on the Banking Bill Amendment. They decided to vote against their own business [government]. They have done that three times on the same bill.
“That angered some members of the forum. I am not the administrator. I saw them being removed,” Banda said.
On three occasions, the opposition defeated the government while debating on the bill.
Chimwendo Banda admitted that the UTM lawmakers are doing that together with other independent MPs.
Asked what the development means in terms of the partnership between the UTM and Malawi Congress Party in particular and the Tonse Alliance in general, he said he could not comment on the political connotations.
But he said the differences that have arisen are issue based.
He added that the UTM MPs have been supporting the government with other bills except the Banking Amendment Bill.
On December 5, opposition lawmakers accused their colleagues on the ruling side of the House of attempting to snatch a s commercial bank using Bill Number 30 of 2022, Banking Act Amendment.
The House failed to agree on a report by the Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament where the bill was referred to in August.
Among others, the bill which was initially brought to the House by Finance Minister Sosten Gwengwe sought to amend the Banking Act to provide more options for dealing with failing banks and protecting depositors.
The bill also gives powers to the Registrar of Financial Institutions to facilitate mandatory recapitalisation of failing banks, carry out a purchase and acquisition transaction involving the transfer of assets and liabilities of a failed bank without requiring prior approval of shareholders.
According to notice of amendments on bill number 30 of 2022 Banking Amendment by the chairperson of the budget and finance committee, the amendments that include clause 4 (3) which says the registrar may, after according a shareholder of a bank holding company a fair hearing, remove a shareholder of a bank or bank holding company who ceases to meet the fit and proper requirements of a shareholder.”
The opposition MPs shot it down.
In an interview Friday, Chimwendo Banda said no one is planning to buy or snatch any bank in the country.
He made reference to FDH bank, which he said has become a bone of contention, arguing that the opposition has a feeling that the government side would like to get the bank through the bill.
“It is malicious to say that some people want to buy that bank. No-one wants to snatch FDH bank,” Banda said.
FDH was founded by Thom Mpinganjira who is currently one of its shareholders.
Mpinganjira was convicted early this year for reportedly attempting to bribe judges that presided over the 2019 elections case.
Leader of the Opposition Kondwani Nankhumwa said in an interview that UTM legislators are now voting alongside the opposition especially on the bill in question.
“We are controlling the House now,” Nankhumwa said.
And yesterday, the opposition defeated the government side in Parliament over the government’s motion for the House to deliberate on the Press Trust reconstruction amendment bill.
Leader of UTM in the House Chrissie Kalamula Kanyasho did not respond to our questionnaire on the development.
Asked how UTM welcomes the development, its secretary general Patricia Kaliati said, “[We welcome the developments] as they unfold.”
On what is remaining of the alliance, Kaliati said: “Ask Honourable Chimwendo Banda to explain what it means when the MPs are not invited to government functions.”
Governance commentator and Executive Director for the Church and Society for the Blantyre synod of the Church of Central African Presbyterian Reverend Master Jumbe described the development as a sign of the collapse of the Tonse alliance.
“This is a clear sign that the Alliance agreement has collapsed. You may recall that since the vice president was stripped of delegated powers after the corruption allegations, the working relationship between MCP and UTM has soured.
“Unfortunately the contents of the agreement were not made public. It will be difficult to comment on what the UTM should do,” Jumbe said.
The Tonse Alliance is a partnership of nine political parties, with MCP and UTM as the two key parties in the alliance.