By Rebecca Chimjeka & Jameson Chauluka:
There was jubilation at Parliament Building in Lilongwe as Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Mzimba North legislator Catherine Gotani-Hara was elected the country’s first-ever female Speaker of Parliament Wednesday.
Gotani-Hara beat Democratic Progressive Party’s nominee, Nsanje North Member of Parliament Esther Mcheka- Chilenje by 97 votes to 93.
Just after Clerk of Parliament, Fiona Kalemba, announced results of the election, MCP legislators burst into jubilation singing, “No Tippex”, apparently referring to the May 21 Tripartite Elections, whose results sheet were reportedly tampered with, using Tippex.
It was a hotly contested women affair.
Gotani-Hara succeeds Richard Msowoya, who in 2014, also rose to the position with support from MCP and other political parties.
The elections coincided with President Peter Mutharika’s arrival in Lilongwe, where he is preparing to deliver the State of Nation Address.
Hara also served as Member of Parliament between 2009 and 2014, minister of Health then Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs.
Gotani-Hara also served as deputy minister for Gender and Transport ministries.
She graduated from University of Malawi’s Chancellor College with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
She further studied at the University of Brighton in the United Kingdom and graduated with a post-graduate degree in International Development and Project Planning and Management.
She was the first Malawian to be appointed as the British Department for International Development’s programme officer.
MCP’s Lilongwe Msozi North MP, Sosten Gwengwe, moved a motion nominating Gotani-Hara for the position.
“Today, I urge you to vote beyond your political colours. Today, we are not electing a leader of a political party but a person who will look after the welfare of all of us,” he said.
Earlier, Kalemba told the House about the roles of the Speaker, which, among others, include presiding over of all business in the House and chairing Business Committee meetings.
She said the Speaker does not participate in any debate as they are expected to discharge duties independently.
Meanwhile, Chancellor College gender analyst Ngeyi Kanyongolo has said the election of Gotani-Hara was victory for gender equality and growth of Malawi’s democracy.
NGO Gender Coordination Network Chairperson, Barbara Banda, described the election of the female Speaker as a great moment for the women’s movement,
“Political will has carried the day and we will continue with such strategies to address existing gaps and leaving no one behind. We have also gained traction and our lobbying has worked wonders,” Banda said.
Kasungu East independent MP Madalitso Kazombo was voted First Deputy Speaker. He got 99 votes, against Chitipa South MP Welani Chilenga’s 89.
United Democratic Front legislator for Mangochi Nkungulu, Aisha Mambo Adams, went unopposed on the position of Second Deputy Speaker.
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