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MPs reject amendments to corruption law

Members of Parliament, mostly from government benches, on Thursday vehemently opposed amendment to Corrupt Practices Act.

Member of Parliament (MP) for Lilongwe South West Constituency Peter Chakhwantha (Malawi Congress Party – MCP), sought amendments to sections 5 and 7 of Corrupt Practices Act.

The Bill proposed deletion of sections which talk about the President having powers to appoint the Director of the Anti- Corruption Bureau (ACB) and that the powers should be given to Public Appointments Committee of Parliament (Pac).

The Bill also proposes that on appointment of the director, the committee should call for nominations from the public through an advert placed by the Clerk of Parliament.

Signals that the Bill would be rejected started when Dowa East MP Richard Chimwendo Banda (MCP) proposed curtailment of the debate on the Bill after just two MPs had contributed to debate on the bill.

MPs, mostly from the government benches, defeated the proposal and the floor was open for debate again.

However, in the committee stage of the Bill, through a roll-call vote, the amendments were rejected.

Eighty-two MPs were against the changes, while 75 were in support. Thirty-four members were absent.

The rejection was despite an appeal Chakhwantha made when tabling the bill that the MPs should support his proposal.

“Mr Speaker Sir, I wish to appeal to our fellow Members of Parliament to look critically at this proposal with sober mind and with the realisation that Malawians out there are looking on us to provide clear leadership in changing things and, therefore, through you Mr Speaker Sir, I challenge all members to stand up and be counted to support this Bill. After all Mr Speaker Sir, it has always been said that the fight against corruption is for us all and Parliament cannot afford to be left behind,” Chakhwantha said.

Nkhata Bay Central Constituency MP, who is also People’s Party Spokesperson on legal matters in Parliament, Raphael Mhone, emphasized the importance of the amendments to the Act.

“This Amendment is coming to this House because we have found that our institution that was created to check corruption is wanting. And one of those places where it is wanting most is its independence. How is it wanting? Because the Executive is compromising that independence,” Mhone said.

Samuel Tembenu, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, said the tabling of the bill is a manifestation of a battle of supremacy among three arms of government.

“In Malawi democracy, there are Executive, Judiciary and Legislature. Battles for supremacy among the three arms of government are inevitable sometimes. For the Executive normally worry about abuse of executive power, for the Judiciary, we have talked about judicial activism. For the Legislature, we speak about legislative adventurism. What we see here is an example of legislative adventurism,” Tembenu said.

He said it is adventurism because the bill wanted to change the fundamental principle of separation of powers.

“The mover of the Bill clearly stated the functions of the Executive, Judiciary but he missed out on one: the functions of the Legislature is to make laws not to enforce them. You cannot hide behind the oversight function to take over the functions of the Executive.”

However, Executive Director for Institute for Policy Interaction, Rafiq Hajat, has described the rejection of the bill as a blow to the consolidation of the country’s democracy.

“There is a deeper meaning to the proposal that was made. It was a much more democratic way of appointing people to positions in government. The rejection shows that the MPs are not democrats. They have to be scrutinised. It’s a terrible blow to our democracy,” Hajat said.

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