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Drama as Parliament adjourns indefinitely

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Kondwani Nankhumwa

There was drama Friday in Parliament surrounding the adjournment of the 7th meeting of the 49th session when opposition members blocked the government from winding up its business.

Led by Leader of Opposition Kondwani Nankhumwa, the opposition bench barred government from bringing any other business on the floor except the banking amendment bill.

Earlier, Leader of the House Richard Chimwendo Banda had moved a motion for the house to discuss a Press Trust Reconstruction amendment bill before moving to other business. But the opposition side shot down the motion.

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Nankhumwa said it was improper for the house to conclude the meeting without dealing with the banking amendment bill which was previously left at committee stage.

Apparently, the banking bill had brought controversy in the chamber, with the opposition alleging that the amendment was not being done in good faith.

But Speaker of the National Assembly Catherine Gotani Hara ruled that both the Speaker’s office and the opposition did not have the powers to dictate business on the floor except the government.

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The development forced Chimwendo Banda to shelve all business and moved a motion for adjournment formalities, a move that the opposition members of Parliament also protested when Gotani Hara ruled in favour of the government.

The speaker left the chamber despite the opposition protesting the motion, while chanting songs accusing both government and speaker of running away from the chamber.

“Speaker wathawaaa, kuti wa! wa! wa!” they chanted.

Nankhumwa told journalists afterwards that what had happened was a threat to democracy.

“We have never seen this unfortunate thing that has happened today. We had set a specific business which we had agreed on but from nowhere, the government said we should go home even without proper formalities.

“They are afraid of what the opposition are doing in providing checks and balances. Because we are now bringing checks and balances, they would want to run away from that. Let me tell them that if they are serious with this government, let them withdraw this bill in its totality otherwise the fight shall remain until February,” he said.

MP for Mzimba North Yeremiah Chihana expressed disappointment with the conduct of Gotani Hara, alleging that she was compromised by prioritising party allegiance other than being the Speaker of the house.

In an interview, Chimwendo Banda said only the government has the powers to bring government business in the chamber.

“Our rules are very clear in the house. Government business is supposed to be ushered in the house by the government. It was very surprising that the opposition wanted to bring government business. We could not accept to move unprocedurally,” he said.

Chimwendo Banda dismissed the opposition fears that the government wants to buy or snatch FDH Bank if the banking bill is passed.

He said the government side allowed the opposition to bring their concerns over the bill, which he said were considered.

Nevertheless, the house adjourned sine die after meeting for five weeks with the budget review for 2022- 2023 financial year as the main agenda.

The house also passed 13 bills including the pension bill, fertiliser, electoral reforms and money bills.

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