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Archive for April, 2012

Malawi govt recalls its UN, India ambassadors

The Malawian government has further recalled its permanent representative to the United Nations (UN), Ambassador Brian Bowler and its High Commissioner to India Chrissie Chawanje Mughogho. This follows the recall of the Malawian High Commissioner to the Republic of South Mrs. Agrina Mussa.

All the recalled dignitaries have been told to wind up their missions in three months’ time. Letters of recall were issued on and delivered to them on April 18 2012.

Ambassador Bowler who has been to various embassies and high commissions was first appointed by then United Democratic Front (UDF) government to Brussels, Belgium and later moved to New Delhi, India by late President Bingu wa Mutharika.

Ambassador Chawanje Mughogho was first posted to Zambia in 2005 before being moved to India.

During her first press conference held at her Area 12 residence, President Mrs. Joyce Banda told journalists that Malawians should expect changes in key government departments and agencies.

Leader of Opposition in Parliament: Wither JZU?

The death of Bingu wa Mutharika will bring unprecedented changes in the political fabric in Malawi. It is only logical that changes will have to be effected while others will come automatically as a result of the change in the presidency. One office which has and will continue to attract comments is the Leader of Opposition in Parliament.  John Tembo is the current leader of opposition after a legal battle between him and the Speaker.

Prior to the 2009 general elections, the practice in the Malawi National Assembly was to be guided by the definition of who a leader of opposition is as espoused in the standing orders: “…the parliamentary leader of the largest party, elected by the parliamentary membership, which is not in government or in coalition with a government party, and who is recognized by the speaker as such”.

An attempt was made in June 2009 to change the procedure in which a Leader of Opposition is identified in the House. It is now clear that the reasons for this failed attempt were political and that is why even the procedures that ensued and culminated in the illegal election of Abel Kayembe were seriously flawed and made the Malawi National Assembly a laughing stock in the Commonwealth parliamentary grouping. It was the first of its kind with no precedents elsewhere in the parliamentary world. No wonder the court reversed that decision.

The decision of the court meant that the pre-Kayembe status quo in identifying who the Leader of Opposition prevails.

It is also important to realize that traditionally, the Leader of Opposition is identified immediately after a general election. The reason for this is that it is Malawians who decide which party becomes the ruling party by voting its leader as President of this country in a general election. The party candidate who comes second and with the largest number of MPs becomes the leader of opposition.

Considering recent developments, some people have and continue to suggest that Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, who has taken over leadership of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), would take over the position of leader of opposition in parliament. It is a view that may not be 100 percent correct for the following reasons:

Number of MPs: To begin with, the current political situation in the DPP is extremely fluid. Indeed the DPP has, on paper, the largest number of MPs in the National Assembly. It is perhaps on that basis that some quarters are suggesting of Peter, being its leader after the demise of Bingu, automatically taking over the position of Leader of opposition as opposed to the current party, MCP. The nation has learnt that so far, over 30 MPs from DPP have shown interest to work with PP government. More will soon declare their interest to work with PP such that it may be premature to declare Peter the new leader of opposition based on the current numerical strength of DPP. The situation will definitely continue to change.

Party Support: The National Assembly standing orders talk of a “…. A parliamentary leader of the largest party (which is not in government or in coalition with the government), elected by the parliamentary membership…” While the issue of numbers has been dealt with at in the first point above, the question of that leader being elected by the parliamentary membership may work against Peter Mutharika. The parliamentary membership being referred to here is all DPP members in the House. Considering that already more than 30 DPP members have jumped ship, how many of those remaining will support the idea of having the Law professor as their leader in Parliament? Does he still command the same respect and loyalty as was the case prior to the death of his brother?  Very doubtful!  We have already seen how the DPP politburo has deserted him even in mourning his departed brother. If anything Peter should expect strong opposition from the DPP remnants. Worst of all there is the possibility of having two or three communications from the DPP as to who will lead them in the House just like what happened with the MCP and late Ishmael Chafukira in 2009. That will be a recipe for disaster on Peter’s leadership in the House.

Parliamentary Tradition: The other reason is the tradition that the leader of opposition is identified following a general election. This tradition was borrowed from Westminster (United Kingdom) parliamentary system. Although it does not have any legal backing in Malawi, the tradition has been honored by the Malawi National Assembly since the advent of multiparty by identifying the Leader of Opposition during the first sitting of the House in the first session following a general election. It will be up to the Malawi National Assembly to continue honoring such a tradition in which case Peter would not be recognized as leader of opposition or ignore such it and declare Peter leader of opposition should the numbers and support from DPP support his leadership.

Recognition by the Speaker: Key to all these factors is the role of the speaker who according to the standing orders has the important responsibility of “recognizing” the name submitted to him for that purpose as leader of opposition. It is important to note that in ascertaining that recognition the speaker may be influenced by the numbers of the party submitting the name, the tradition in recognizing the leader of opposition and whether there is one name submitted. It would be extremely erroneous for the speaker to open debate over these issues on the floor of the House like he did in 2009 and ended up irregularly recognizing someone who was not and may not be the right person to be leader of opposition and in the process attract law suits.

In conclusion, although certain quarters have concluded that Peter Mutharika will automatically take over as leader of opposition, the situation may not be as easily defined as some analysts and political commentators are suggesting. Arthur Peter may not have the support of all members in the DPP;  some may opt for a totally different member leaving Peter in the cold. In addition, the tradition in parliament may come to play in which case the speaker may refuse to recognize Peter as the leader of opposition on the basis that the leader was identified already following the 2009 general election. Even if the speaker were to recognize the Thyolo MP as new leader of opposition, the current position holder and party may not accept it without a fight both politically and legally. It is therefore premature to suggest that Peter Mutharika will be leader of opposition.

Why JB backtracked on hosting AU summit

The announcement by the Malawi government that it will host the forthcoming African Union (AU) summit in June has come after President Madame Joyce Banda got an assurance from the African Union secretariat that it will provide financial support required for the impoverish Southern African country to host the meeting.

This blogger understands that during her meeting with civil society organizations on Monday, President Joyce Banda alluded to the fact that hosting of the summit will depend on the AU secretariat’s assurance to source money for Malawi to host the indaba which will cost more than one billion Kwacha.

According to the president, the country could not have hosted the 53 member countries’ indaba had it been that there were no assurances from Addis Ababa and other African leaders to provide financial support.

Madame Banda, then ceremonial vice president, vehemently opposed to hosting the AU summit amidst the economic crisis the country is going through.

However it is not known as to how much money the AU and other countries have pledged to provide to the country to host the summit which is only less than three months away.

So far a number of countries including South Africa, Zambia, and Tanzania have shown keen interest to assist the Malawi government in curbing the current fuel shortage before hosting the June summit.

Top on the agenda is the election of continental body’s Commission chairperson. During the last summit in January there was a deadlock as to who would become the AU commissioner between South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Ms. Nkosazana Dlamin-Zuma and the incumbent Gabonese, Jean Ping. Both candidates (Zuma and Ping) failed to obtain the required two-thirds majority.

Mr. Ping, who was seeking re-election, was elected on February 1 2008 but officially took office two months later on April 28 2008.

Ms. Dlamin-Zuma is ex-wife to the South African President Jacob Zuma. So far, Pretoria has indicated of re-fielding Ms. Dlamin-Zuma at the upcoming Lilongwe summit. “Nothing stops us from fielding the same candidate because she has shown or proven to be a formidable candidate that the incumbent could not defeat,” South Africa’s International Relations Minister Maite Nkoane Mashabane said in a statement way back in January this year.

With the deadlock, Mr. Ping’s mandate was extended until the re-scheduled elections provide a clear winner.

Speculations are rife that South Africa is doing everything possible to garner member countries’ support for its candidate. Amongst others, analysts say, is manifested in recent gesture and support rendered by the Southern African giant, to the Malawi government towards the funeral logistics of Bingu wa Muthalika.

The South African government provided their military aircraft to ship back the remains of wa Muthalika who had been flown to Johannesburg when he suffered a severe heart attack. They have also offered to assist the struggling landlocked country with millions of liters of fuel during the funeral of the former chairman of the AU.

Who becomes leader of the house, govt chief whip?

The change in the Presidency, occasioned by the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika, will bring a lot of political changes in the country both in the short and long term. A number of key institutions will be affected. The legislature is such an institution which will bear the short term consequence of this change. Depending on the new cabinet to be appointed by Madam Banda, chances are high that the leadership of the House is bound to be affected, in particular, on the government side.

The positions to be affected are Leader of the House, the government chief whip.

Assuming that the cabinet will change and that some of the faces that are currently in cabinet and who held leadership positions in parliament like Dr George Chaponda and Vuwa Kaunda will not be in the new cabinet, then the new government will have to look critically at the individuals to be given these positions.

What we might have is a repeat of the 2004-2009 Parliament. Indeed the membership configurations in the House will change. DPP will be on the opposition benches. The PP has only 3 members, who were once DPP. In this kind of setting and coming from a background of political animosity between the then ruling party DPP and the PP, one cannot rule out the National Assembly to once again be the focal point if not the political battleground of these two parties; a repeat of the late Bingu’s first term. It is therefore important for the PP government to get prepared for eventualities in parliament. This is why the individuals to assume parliamentary leadership have to be carefully scrutinized in terms of their experience and knowledge of parliamentary procedures and practices.

What choices are available for the PP? As indicated, PP currently has the following Members Khumbo Kachali, Anita Kalinde and Jennifer Chilunga. Of the three it is Khumbo Kachali who has the experience but unfortunately he lost his parliamentary seat by virtue of his appointment to the vice presidency.  Otherwise, he was best suited for the leader of the house role to handle any situations on the floor of the House that might threaten the agenda of government from the opposition.

As of now, the PP government has to consider roping in a more experienced member of the opposition into cabinet with a view of appointing him or her as Leader of the House.

That scenario brings to mind a few names from the opposition: Ibrahim Matola, Joseph Njobvuyalema and Uladi Mussa. Njobvuyalema might be a difficult one to get considering the conservative nature of his party and party boss, John Tembo.  It is either Njobvuyalema he sacrifices his political career in his MCP and opts to serve the nation or PP formally strikes a deal with MCP. However, any formal deal with MCP, PP should be prepared to compromise big on some key positions beyond that of leader of the house.

This leaves Ibrahim Matola and Uladi Mussa. Uladi, who is also president of the Maravi People’s Party (MPP) served as minister in various portfolios in both Bakili Muluzi and Bingu wa Muthalika’s rule and stands a better chance than the youthful Matola. However Matola is more articulate and more acceptable in the House than Chengi Golo (Change Goal), as Uladi is popularly known.

The other extreme is PP to dine with its [former] devil and make its pick from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). This might include Ken Lipenga, Ken Kandodo or indeed to maintain George Chaponda as a minister and eventually Leader of the House. As expected, this is very unlikely given the rough ride that some of the founding members had with the then ruling party.

Betting for the unexpected, Dr. Ken Lipenga stands a better chance; however, if the president wishes to be seen to be distributing positions equally by region then Kandodo would prevail over the current finance minister. The ability of the soft-speaking grandnephew to the founding Malawi president, at handling hot parliamentary issues has not been tested and as such it might be risky for the JB government to entrust him with a role in a house where the stakes are high.

The other alternative is to look outside Parliament but within PP. This option would mean looking at someone who was once a member of parliament and understands how parliamentary business is conducted. That person would first be appointed into cabinet. Names like Brown Mpinganjira, Clement Stambuli, Kizito Ngwembe, Bonface Kadzamila, Ettinor Koloviko etc come to mind. The president will have a difficult choice from this group when it comes to leader of the House. However, this would be a little departure from the tradition as leader of the house has, for years, been an MP. Whether such a member would have the respect of the elected members of the house is a topic for another day. . Mpinganjira would be ideal for that position. BJ, as the former Mulanje Central parliamentarian is popularly known, has the experience and tact to convince even the most difficult of DPP members in the house. He is a well-known mobilizer. The advantage of having a Leader of the House from PP is that undiluted agenda of the PP will be pushed in the House spiritedly knowing that in less than 2 years the presidency will be up for grabs. Admittedly, a Leader of the House from the opposition would do the job, but perhaps not with the same zeal as would a person from PP.

The other important position is Government Chief Whip. Recently the Speaker made a ruling that a Party with one or two members in parliament cannot have a whip. PP does not have its own members except those two (leaving out Kachale) who were once DPP. How will the speaker reconcile his ruling with this scenario in as far as the position of government chief whip is concerned?

Nevertheless what has to be borne in mind is that a government chief whip MUST be a member of parliament who would command respect amongst his/her peers. Should the president decide to look for a whip within her PP, then Malawi will have a female government chief whip in Anita Kalinde.

Whatever choice the President settles for, we are going into a very exciting period in which the whole nation would be focused on the proceedings of the House. It is therefore important for the President to carefully understand the parliamentary challenges her government faces and be able to put in place individuals who would lead the House into a parliament that is responsive, effective and predictable for the good of Malawi.

CSOs to keep watchful on issues in the July 20 petition

The Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have announced their change of agenda in the 20 point plan which was given to the government during the leadership of the late Bingu wa Mutharika.

Announcing the change in Lilongwe, the grouping said the change has come about following President Joyce Banda’s assurance that her government is committed to resolving the current problems facing Malawi.

Last year, the CSOs petitioned government to immediately address problems such as the shortage of foreign currency, fuel, political turmoil that characterized the day to day affairs of the nation, respect of the rule of law amongst others. This was followed by the July 20 national demonstrations which led to the killing of over 20 Malawians who took to the streets.

“We are pleased that that the current government has shown interest to address all the issues that we raised in our earlier petition. While giving them a chance, we will still play a watchful eye to see to it that these issues have been addressed,” said Reverend Macdonald Sembereka, one of the country’s activists. This follows a two hours meeting they held with President Banda on Monday at Mtunthama State Lodge.

According to Sembereka, the CSOs will soon convene to decide on the way forward on the presidential contact and dialogue group. The group was appointed by the late wa Muthalika and was headed by Bishop Emeritus Bernard Malango

On a related note, many countries continue pledging to assist the government in curbing the fuel shortage. On the list are Zambia with 5 million liters, South Africa with over 20 million liters and Tanzania pledging 2 million liters.
This move will bring hope to Malawians that soon queuing for fuel will be a thing of the past.

Soldier to return to politics; bashes DPP politburo for abandoning Peter

Music icon Lucius Banda, popularly known as Soldier, says there is possibility for him to bounce back into politics if the environment remains conducive. He told FM101’s John Mota aka DJ Atom that should he decide to bounce back, he will do so after thorough consultations.

He, however, expressed disappointment over the decision by senior members of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) who have since abandoned the party before their leader, Bingu wa Muthalika, is buried. He said their conduct reminds him of the song ‘NTHAWI’ which he did when he was incarcerated by the fallen wa Muthalika.

‘I feel sorry for Bingu’s brother, Peter, to whom DPP politburo showed their loyalty as 2014 torch bearer’, agonized Soldier. ‘How could they live Peter alone?’ wondered Banda. He urged people to forget the past and mourn the president with respect.

The Balaka-based musician was arrested and imprisoned on what many believe to be politically-motivated charges bordering on the validity of his school certification. As Member of Parliament, he tabled impeachment procedures which Muthalika thought targeted him for dumping the United Democratic Front (UDF), the party that sponsored him into power.

Banda spent 21 months in the cooler before the appeals at the higher courts rendered the sentence as excessive and faulted the lower [magistrates] court. He however, maintained that what he and his family went through strengthened him and that he now understands how other people feel when they are going through difficult time.

 

Calista, Kalirani miss mass prayers in SA

There was drama yesterday (Saturday April 14 2012) morning at one of the military hospital chapel in South Africa when the bereaved family members and Malawi government officials missed the mass prayers organized as sendoff of the remains of Bingu wa Muthalika.

Widow, Callista Muthalika, her step children, Duwa and Madalitso were misinformed of the time when the mass was to start. The mass also proceeded in the absence of the Malawi government delegation led by Dr. Jean Kalirani.

 

As this was not enough, air crafts had to be delayed for another hour as wreaths were being bought. According to investigations by this blogger, this was caused by the Malawian High Commissioner Mrs. Agrina Musa (wife to Local government minister and chairperson to the Bingu funeral committee, Henry Musa) who wanted to do all the preparations alone.

This contributed to the delay of the arrival of the remains as well as the bereaved family who accompanied the same.

South African Minister of Defense, Ms Lindiwe Sisulu, witnessed the repatriation of the body from South Africa to Malawi. On the other hand, Health Minister Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi accompanied the body of the former African Union chairman.

In an interview, Dr. Motsoaledi said the SA government will remember the late Malawi president as a man of vision who insisted that Africa should feed itself and become a bread basket for the whole world. He was officially representing President Jacob Zuma.

Kaliati fired from Bingu funeral committee

The newly appointed Minister of Information Moses Kunkuyu has finally been sworn by the Chief Secretary Mr. Bright Msaka. The swearing in ceremony took place this morning (April 12, 2012) at the office of president and cabinet in the capital Lilongwe.

He replaces Patricia Kaliati as government spokesperson. Kaliati was the first casualty since Joyce Banda assumed the presidency on Saturday April 7 2012; taking over from Bingu wa Muthalika, 78, who died of heart attack on Thursday April 5.

Last Tuesday the president justified her decision to replace the Mulanje parliamentarian saying it was necessary to restore the lost glory of the ministry. Kaliati was known for her careless and casual approach to handling government information.

Madame Banda said she is expecting the youthful minister to tell her nothing but the truth; giving her honest advice and not to praise her.

Mr. Kunkuyu was once in Hope Alliance, a grouping of DPP parliamentarians who were fighting within the party against the endorsement of Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, Bingu’s kid brother, as the party’s 2014 torch bearer.

The newly appointed information minister Moses Kunkuyu says the Joyce Banda administration will ensure that the state-controlled Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) will provide fair coverage. He said he will put concrete steps to ensure that all stakeholders have equal or fair access to the public air waves. The minister assured Malawians that he will exercise his duties with prudence and dignity.

Consequently, Kunkuyu has also replaced Akweni, as Kaliati is popularly known, in the Bingu funeral committee. Wa Muthalika’s are expected in Malawi on Saturday April 14 instead of the previously announced Thursday April 12. Burial is scheduled for April 23 2012 at his Ndata farm in Thyolo.

Appoint a lean, apolitical cabinet; CSOs urge JB as heads continue to roll

Representatives of the Malawi civil society is expecting the new president appoint a lean and clean cabinet based on merit and not partisan politics. They said this at a briefing on the current political transition in Malawi.

They urged Her Excellency Madam Joyce Banda to ensure that the cabinet size is within the means, economically and that it is broad-based and representative of the aspirations of Malawi with the current economic, political governance crisis.

The NGOs have since welcomed the appointment of the Inspector General (IG) of Police Mr. Loti Dzonzi; saying he is a long serving officer and an accomplished professional.

They have since asked the new IG to expeditiously correct the image of the Malawi Police Services that serves the general populous as per the mandate of the country’s constitution.

Commissioner Dzonzi replaces Peter Mukhitho who is accused of heavy-handedness in his handling of the July 20 2012 demonstrations during which 19 people were killed by police who used live bullets. Mukhitho is also connected to the August 2011 gruesome murder of Robert Chasowa, a fourth-year engineering student at the Malawi Polytechnic in Blantyre. Mukhitho is believed to have dealings with the late Chasowa before he was found dead at the campus.

The presser was addressed by Undule Mwakasungula, Dorothy Ngoma, Rodgers Newa, and Reverend Macdonald Sembereka amongst others. The y also called for the appointed of Dzonzi’s deputy and to insitutute and independent police commission as part of strategic reforms.

Meanwhile, heads continue to roll in various government departments and agencies. Dr Perks Ligoya has been replaced by his deputy Mary Nkosi at the country’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of Malawi Radson Mwadiwa, has returned as Secretary to the Treasury replacing Joseph Mwanamvekha who has been keeping the government purse since 2009. Dr. Benson Tembo, who once headed Television Malawi in its formative years, will now head the merged Malawi Broadcasting Service (MBC); replacing the youthful Bright Malopa whose academic credentials remained questionable to head such an institution.

Messrs Mwanamvekha, Ligoya and Mukhitho came from the late President Bingu wa Muthalika’s Lhomwe tribe. Mwanamvekha also doubled as treasurer to the lhomwe cultural grouping, Mulhakho wa Alhomwe.

Mapeto DWS prints Bingu funeral cloth

Fate foils the best laid plans, so they say. Whosoever tweaked these words could have had Professor Arthur Peter Muthalika on his mind.

News has it that the 2014 Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) torch bearer was due to get married to a Benin lady in Benin on Saturday April 7 2012. Sources say, preparations were underway in the tiny West African country where the wedding was supposed to take place. The law professor was due to fly to Cotonou on Friday April 6.

The news of the wedding was kept a secret as it was feared that it would spark resentment from a lot of people who have for long anticipated that the late president’s brother was taking one Balaka lady parliamentarian for a wife.

All plans were thwarted by the untimely death of his elder brother Bingu wa Muthalika, 78, on Thursday April 5 2012.

Meanwhile, Mapeto DWS is currently printing cloth for the funeral of the late president. Burial, according to sources, is expected to take place on Monday April 23 2012 at his Ndata farm in Thyolo district. The remains arrive in Malawi this Thursday April 12 2012 from South Africa.