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MCP MPs storm out of Parliament

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By Rebecca Chimjeka:

Chaos marred parliamentary proceedings during the opening of the 48th Session of Parliament Friday as opposition members of Parliament (MPs) walked out on President Peter Mutharika, just when he had started delivering his State of the Nation Address (Sona).

Trouble started brewing when Mutharika took his seat and started saluting people, marking the opening of the Sona.

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The MPs, who sit on opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) benches, eventually walked out of the House and Mutharika, who was forced to take sips of water as the legislators shouted him down, drowning his measured voice in the cacophony of their noise, proceeded to deliver his message without any further disturbances.

The drama started when Clerk of Parliament Fiona Kalemba was about to read our parliamentary procedures before Mutharika started delivering the Sona.

Kalemba failed to read the procedures as Nkhata Bay South Member of Parliament, Ken Zikhale Ng’oma, insisted to standing on a Point of Order.

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The situation went out of hand, so much that the Clerk of Parliament could not be heard as opposition MPs, especially those from MCP and some independent members, continued to make noise.

In the end, just when Mutharika was saying “today Malawi has seen democracy at its best”, MCP legislators were finding their way out of the chamber.

As they did so, some chanted “wakuba!” while others jumped from the song “Moto wayaka” to “Aliratu Alira”!

In the course of the chaos, Kalemba was seen consulting the Speaker of the National Assembly, Catherine Gotani- Hara.

Leader of the House, Kondwani Nankhumwa, was also seen liaising with both the newly elected Speaker and the President as he sought an amicable end to the chaos.

Gotani-Hara tried to intervene, to no avail.

She had no option but to warn that she would crack the whip on misbehaving members.

“Order, members of Parliament. If this continues, I will kick out any member who is misbehaving,” Gotani-Hara said.

Just as she was saying this, she identified Dedza South MP, Ishmael Ndaila Onani, as culprit, and informed the Sergeant-at- Arms to send the member out of the chamber. As Onani was going out, all MCP members escorted him, before returning back into the chamber.

The disruption took almost 30 minutes as MCP MPs continued to protest and interrupt the President’s speech. They finally walked out while throwing Tipp-ex bottles in the chamber.

MCP secretary general, Eisenhower Mkaka, told the media that their walking out was a continuation of a protest against results of the May 21 elections, saying they could not listen to Mutharika.

“We have come here to pass the provisional budget and not to listen to Mutharika. We do not recognise him,” Mkaka said.

The party’s president, Lazarus Chakwera, who came second to Mutharika, did attend Friday’s sitting.

Nankhumwa said, in a post- Sona interview, that the disruption was uncalled for.

He added that the government side was surprised by the conduct of the MCP MPs.

The legislator said, irrespective of the goings-on, government business would not be disrupted.

“We, as the government, are aware of the opposition’s grievances and know that the issues they are referring to are in court. We wish they could have waited for the courts to make a decision and not taken their grievances to Parliament,” he said.

Meanwhile, law expert Negracious Justin has said the Sona is a constitutional task reserved for the State President.

He, however, said, considering that MCP was contesting the legitimacy of the President, “I would label that action as a reasonable gesture”.

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