Divisions and drama continue in opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) with some Members of Parliament (MPs) in the party protesting the appointment of Nsanje Central lawmaker Francis Kasaila as the new Leader of Opposition.
DPP president Peter Mutharika Wednesday informed the Office of the Speaker that Kasaila was to be the new Leader of Opposition, effectively replacing Kondwani Nankhumwa who has been holding the position from the time his party moved to the opposition benches after losing the June 23 presidential election.
But Mutharika’s decision was quashed after MP for Mulanje West Yusuf Nthenda argued that the DPP leader does not have power to control the business of the august House.
The development also forced Parliament to sustain Nankhumwa on the position.
Nthenda pointed out that the bearer of the position is elected and not appointed and that, to his knowledge, elections on the same had not been held.
“As a bonafide member of DPP, I did not participate in the election of Leader of Opposition. Standing Order 35 (1) says the Leader of Opposition shall be elected by the party not in government having the greatest numerical strength in Parliament at any point in time.
“Standing Order 36 says the Leader of Opposition may be removed by the party that elected him or her. These Standing Orders are only applying to Parliament,” Nthenda said.
He further argued that the party members were supposed to be given an opportunity to elect their own Leader of Opposition.
Kasaila’s attempt to comment on the matter using Standing Orders was cut short as Deputy Speaker of Parliament Madalitso Kazombo stopped further commenting on the matter.
Kazombo then reversed the appointment and instructed DPP to go back and hold the elections.
“From the look of things, it seems elections were not held that side. I, therefore, throw the matter back to DPP to give us the name of the person who will be elected. As it stands now, Honourable Nankhumwa remains the Leader of Opposition,” Kazombo said.
The divisions in DPP come at a time the party is expected to hold a convention to elect a new leader following the loss of the June 23 presidential election by Mutharika.
The misunderstandings recently prompted the party’s disciplinary committee to summon Nankhumwa on several allegations including his attainment of the Leader of Opposition position and his alleged involvement with Malawi Congress Party officials.
DPP spokesperson Brown Mpinganjira asked for more time before commenting on the issue but the party’s Secretary-General Grezelder Jeffrey said she was not aware of any plans to replace Nankhumwa as Leader of Opposition.
“What I know is that [at the very beginning] the President wrote me a message on WhatsApp, saying I should communicate those positions to Parliament. I am not aware of any meeting which resolved to reverse that. As far as I am concerned as Secretary- General of DPP, Honourable Nankhumwa is the Leader of Opposition,” Jeffrey said.
Nankhumwa did not pick our calls when we sought his comment on the drama.
Meanwhile, Chancellor College political scientist Happy Kayuni has posited that the challenges currently rocking DPP are because Mutharika has failed to manage the transition within the party.
Kayuni said it is important for the conflicting sides to come together and that Mutharika must be seen to be independent in these conflict resolution efforts.
Mathews Kasanda is a journalist who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from University of Malawi (The Polytechnic).
In 2015, Media Institute of Southern Africa awarded him the Best Print Media Education Journalist of the Year accolade.
He joined Times Group Newsroom in September 2019.