LEADER of Opposition, Lazarus Chakwera, yesterday led Members of Parliament (MPs) in opposing the reinstatement of Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, George Chaponda, as Leader of the House.
In his communication to the MPs after Parliament reconvened, Speaker Richard Msowoya announced Chaponda’s reinstatement, which came six days after he was replaced by Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Kondwani Nankhumwa.
The debate which followed the announcement meant that out of the two and half hours the House meets on Monday, they only met for 57 minutes yesterday. This means that they spent about one hour and thirty-three minutes (93 minutes), moving to and fro on the issue.
Following the Speaker’s announcement, Chakwera rose on a point of order, questioning the reinstatement of Chaponda, in view of the findings by a Commission of Inquiry on maize purchases from Zambia which President, Peter Mutharika instituted late last year.
“What are we telling the world? What are we telling Malawians on the leadership of this House?” Chakwera asked.
In his point of order, the Leader of Opposition cited a section of a report by the Retired Chief Justice Anastasia Msosa-led Commission of Inquiry, which stated that Chaponda should be investigated on how Transglobe became involved in the purchase of the maize from Zambia.
Before the Speaker made a ruling on Chakwera’s point of order, Mzimba West MP, Harry Mkandawire, wanted to raise the same issue, but Msowoya told him to wait. And in his ruling, Msowoya said:
“The House goes by its rules. Leader of the House has to be a Cabinet minister. When the member was suspended, Parliament took appropriate action [and an interim leader of the House was appointed]. But when the Supreme Court vacated the injunction, the appointing authority was at liberty to appoint any person as Leader of the House.”
Msowoya’s explanation did not stop Mkandawire from continuing where Chakwera stopped. He told the Speaker that what the Commission of Inquiry has come up with will complement what the joint committee that was investigating the maize will report to the House.
“The so-called Leader of the House is involved in what some of us can call economic sabotage. What if your committee comes and says he was indeed involved in corrupt practices? I, therefore, feel that Honourable Chaponda should go home and come back when the committee is through with its work,” Mkandawire said.
The Speaker later asked Mkandawire to withdraw “socalled” and he complied. Kasungu North East MP, Elias Wakuda Kamanga, suggested that Nankhumwa should continue working as interim Leader of the House until all issues surrounding Chaponda are cleared. Dedza North West MP, Alekeni Menyani said:
“We should not have such a person as our leader.” Initially, Msowoya had indicated that Chaponda should be given a chance to speak, but the Minister of Agriculture was later seen gesturing that he would not, after being given an opportunity.
After a heated debate on the issue, Msowoya ruled that the MPs go on an early tea-break to consult leadership of the House. The break was supposed to be for thirty minutes. But the House reconvened after the break reached one hour and twenty-three minutes. “When the business committee met, it was agreed that the onus is on the appointing authority or the individual concerned.
The leadership agrees that the issue is more to do with moral than legal instruments. The House is, therefore, adjourned for the leadership of the DPP to consult on the matter,” Msowoya said. The first suspension of proceeding was made just 10 minutes after the House reconvened.
According to Msowoya, it was made to allow Parliament to make changes to the Order Paper, so that it reflects Chaponda’s reinstatement as Leader of the House. The suspension was for 30 minutes.
A vibrant writer who gives a great insight on hot topics and issues