Unresolved MCP, UTM rift risks government business
By Deogratias Mmana:
There are fears that the Tonse government side could face tough time during the forthcoming 50th Session of Parliament following unresolved rift between the members of Parliament on the government side and one of the key alliance partners, UTM.
And a governance body has warned that Malawi Congress Party or the government side in Parliament will have itself to blame if government business faces blocks during the coming sitting because it has not made any effort to resolve their differences.
However, Leader of the House Richard Chimwendo Banda, said the relationship between MCP and its alliance partners, including UTM legislators, is good.
As the 49th Session of Parliament rose sine die in December, UTM legislators and some independent MPs had taken a stand to vote alongside the opposition in the august House.
The government side was seen losing the numerical strength as it lost votes on the Bill number 30 of 2022 Banking (Amendment).
UTM legislators took that direction because the government side kicked them out of all official WhatsApp communication groups and banned them from attending government caucuses.
UTM legislators have since threatened to move to opposition bench as there have not been discussions to mend fences.
“MCP [Malawi Congress Party] is still adamant. No any discussion has taken place between UTM and MCP. There is a high probability of UTM MPs moving to opposition bench,” one UTM legislator said.
UTM spokesperson Felix Njawala said the party cannot dictate the behaviour of its MPs in the august House.
He said its MPs are there to represent wishes of their constituents.
“Our legislators speak for their constituents and for Malawians as a whole. If their constituents’ wishes differ from those of our party or government, they vote against us.
“We do not tell them what to say in Parliament but we do allow them to freely represent their constituents,” he said.
Asked to comment if there have been any efforts to mend fences with MCP or the government side that stopped inviting the MPs to caucuses, Njawala said: “Conversations about mending fences are still ongoing.
“The most recent meeting was on July 7, 2022 and we believe there will be another.”
In an interview Friday, Chimwendo Banda said the relationship with UTM legislators is still good.
He said what happened in December when UTM MPs voted alongside the opposition on the Banking Bill was an isolated case.
Banda said UTM legislators would be invited to the government caucuses as days draw closer to the sitting in February.
“We have had no caucuses after that sitting. The main caucus happens a few days to the sitting of Parliament. We will invite them,” Banda said.
He added: “We are supporting each other. The bond is still there.”
Asked about the removal from Whatsapp groups, Banda said he had no idea whether the MPs were re-added or still removed.
“As I said, I am not an administrator. I did not check if they are back. But Whatsapp forums are not more important than personal relations,” Banda said.
Executive Director for Church and Society of the Blantyre Synod of the Church of Central African Presbyterian) CCAP) Reverend Master Jumbe said the government is likely to face tough time in the forthcoming sitting if it does not mend fences with UTM and some independent legislators who started voting alongside the opposition.
“The rift between MCP and UTM is regrettable because it will make life tougher for MCP in Parliament.
“However, MCP has itself to blame for not taking the initiative to resolve the differences because it is the one that started the rift by side-lining UTM,” Jumbe said.
But Jumbe was quick to add that it is difficult for other stakeholders to come in because up until now, the contents of the agreement among Tonse Alliance partners is hidden from the public.
Clerk of Parliament Fiona Kalemba wrote all MPs, cabinet ministers and their deputies informing them that the 50th Session of Parliament will commence on Friday, February 17, 2023.