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Parliament dissolved

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By Audrey Kapalamula:

Parliament and Local Government authorities have been dissolved ahead of elections slated for May 21.

The dissolution of Parliament is in line with Section 67(2) of the Constitution of Malawi which states that “The National Assembly shall stand dissolved on the 20th of March in the fifth year after its election, and the polling day for the general elections for the next National Assembly shall be the Tuesday in the third week of May that year”:

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Section 147(5) of the Constitution also states that Local Government elections shall take place concurrently with general elections for members of the National Assembly as prescribed under Section 67 (1) and Local Government authorities shall stand dissolved on the 20th day of March of the fifth year after their elections

Parliament Assistant Clerk, Leonard Mengezi, said legislators stopped functioning but will continue receiving benefits as these are administrative issues.

Political commentator Mustapha Hussein said there has been mixed performances by both MPs and councillors.

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He said Parliament has done well in representation and law making but scored lowly in playing and oversight role in various issues of public interest.

“Oversight role is what they have not done enough. Over the years, we have heard about corruption in government, Cashgate and the like,and all these show that there some weakness in making sure government is doing its job well. We also saw that, in some areas councils, have not done very well, we heard stories of corruption but others have done well in providing services,” he said

Malawi Local Government Association (Malga) President Wild Ndipo, said councillors have performed despite facing challenges at the beginning of their term.

“We have worked quite well. There were squabbles in the first few months because, by then, MPs and councillors didn’t know our terms of reference but by and by, we have been working together. As we are winding up, we might say the relationship has been cordial,” he said

Ndipo said councillors have contributed in bringing sanity to local councils especially in management of finances and developments.

“We have laid the foundation; what we would require is enhancement of funding but at the same time councils should learn to generate revenue,” he said.

The councillors, elected in 2014, started working after councils had operated without councillors for seven years. Councils before that were dissolved in 2006.

Since 2014, Parliament has been at the centre of formulating contentious laws and issues that are crucial to the operations of the government.

Among other laws are the Access to information Act which is yet to become operational, amending age of the minors from 16 to 18, Tobacco Industry and Mines and Minerals Act.

With the five years, the MPs also failed to agree on the 50+1 electoral reforms bills which attracted the public interest, rejected the interest capping bill among others.

The K4 billion for rural development also divided the lawmakers when the government decided to share among 86 constituencies before the opposition pushed for equal distribution.

In an interview on Friday after the last meeting of Parliament, former Lilongwe Central MP, Lobin Lowe, who finished his term as Leader of Opposition, said the House tackled important business although he said it needed to do better in some areas.

“Let me commend the House for passing private member’s Bill. However important ones were shot down. These include electoral reforms bills, and a bill which was pushing for Parliament’s independence, a Bill which was pushing for independence of Parliament,” Lowe said.

He also faulted the house for rejecting revised Standing Orders, which were expected to be used by the new Parliament to be elected on May 21.

One of the contentious issues in the Standing Orders were procedures on how a president could come to the House to take questions from Members of Parliament.

Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Kondwani Nankhumwa, who was leader of the house, said the MPs performed their duties well.

“Looking at the greater percentage, we have done well. When we were looking at roles of Parliament: the legislative, representative and several other roles, I think we have done our part. However there are other areas where we have not done better as an institution or individuals. But, in a nutshell, the 2014 cohort of Parliament has delivered to the wishes of the people,” he said

Speaker Richard Msowoya thanked the MPs for the role they played in the past five years.

“Let me thank all members for serving the Malawi nation. The process of strengthening Parliament will continue. There is need to strengthen the supremacy of Parliament,” Msowoya said in his final address to the MPs.

He also thanked the Executive and the Judiciary for non-interference in the operations of Parliament.

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