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Parliament mum on 6 MPs’ loans

High Court nullifies 3 more seats

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BANKING ON PARLIAMENT
—Mcheka Chilenje

The government stands to lose around K300 million from loans that it guaranteed for the six members of Parliament (MPs) that have lost their parliamentary seats through courts’ decisions since the May 21 2019 parliamentary election.

In a latest development, the High Court sitting in Blantyre Thursday nullified parliamentary election results for Nsanje Central, Nsanje North and Chikwawa East constituencies, bringing the number of court-nullified parliamentary seats to six after Phalombe North East, Mangochi West and Mangochi North East constituency representatives suffered the same fate.

Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) moved fast to conduct by-elections.

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The MPs are, during their tenure of office, supposed to get, among other loans, K50 million for the purchase of a motor vehicle that is expected to be repaid—from the salaries—within their five-year term of office.

However, heads are rolling as to how the government will recover what is remaining of the K50 million loans as six MPs have so far lost their seats before the end of their term.

Discharged MP for Nsanje North Esther Mcheka-Chilenje referred The Daily Times to Parliament for us to appreciate how National Assembly officials would manage the motor-vehicle loan she obtained.

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She said officials there would be better placed to shed light on what happens to car loans when duty-bearers lose their seats through court battles.

“This is not the first time that a seat has been rendered vacant and Parliament has procedures, in terms of how it handles such a situation,” she said.

But one former MP disclosed to The Daily Times that the current situation was unique as it has never, in recent times, happened that a legislator is deposed through court orders.

He said, in the past, most MPs that did not finish their term of office did so through untimely events such as death, in which case their loans were repaid through group life loan insurance cover.

He explained that MPs repay half of the loan amount using a low interest rate. This means, out of the K50 million that MPs collect as motor vehicle loan, they only pay slightly above K25 million at the end of the term.

“You will find that their monthly deductions are not that huge as they only pay half the loan amount at a negligible interest rate,” he said.

A source at Parliament said, under normal circumstances, the money would be recovered from the pension money accrued by the MPs whose election has been invalidated by the courts to offset their loans— which were guaranteed by the government, in the first place.

“Normally what happens is that when we receive a communication of nullification of an election, we inform the banker of the affected member. We take the affected member of Parliament’s pension money if there is any and give it to the bank,” the source said.

However, Parliament Principal Public Relations Officer Ian Mwenye asked for more time to consult his seniors before he could respond to our questions.

The nullification of the three seats brings to six the number of vacant seats as other seats in three constituencies fell vacant following the death of Lingson Belekanyama of Lilongwe Nsinja South, Jacqueline Chikuta of Ntchisi North and John Chikalimba of Zomba Changalume.

Mec spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa said the commission would hold by-elections in these constituencies concurrently.

“It is in the best interest of the commission to hold the elections together. When we are ready with the calendar, and when we have the resources, we will announce the date,” he said.

The High Court sitting in Blantyre yesterday nullified parliamentary election results for Nsanje Central, Nsanje North, and Chikwawa East constituencies where Mec officials had initially declared Francis Kasaila, Mcheka Chilenje and Sam Khumbanyiwa winners.

Malawi Congress Party shadow members of Parliament Kafandikhale Mandevana, Enoch Chizuzu and Foster Thipiwa challenged the election results, saying they were marred by irregularities.

Delivering his ruling, Justice Sylvester Kalembera agreed with the petitioners and invalidated initial results.

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