Namisa Blogger of the year 2013,Stimulating the much needed debate

Archive for February, 2013

British defense chief praises Malawi army

The British Chief of the Defense Staff General Sir David Richards says said he is impressed with Malawi Defense Force (MDF)’s performance especially the deployment of soldiers to peace keeping missions.

He was speaking in Lilongwe at a reception organized by the British High Commissioner in honor of his three-day visit to Malawi

He said the UK’s engagement with the MDF is long and solid saying the royal forces have trained many of Malawi’s army officers as well as battalions of peacekeepers deployed to the many trouble spots on the African continent

According to Sir Richards his visit is very significant in as far as investment in the Malawi defense force is concerned. He said he is impressed with the Malawi armed forces’ commitment especially its contribution to continental affairs.

He said Prime Minister David Cameron has respect for all countries that have a bilateral relationship with Britain hence his visit to Malawi.

In his remarks, Army Commander General Henry Odillo described Sir David Richards’ visit as a milestone as it was the first time in Malawi’s history for a British defense chief to visit the southern African country.

He said his visit has brought confidence and hope to his forces as he has seen for himself some of the challenges the Malawi defense force is facing hence UK government would find ways of helping out.

British High Commissioner to Malawi Michel Nevin said Britain’s relationship with Malawi will grow to greater heights in as far as trade and investments between the two countries is concerned; adding, the visit was also aimed at strengthening the relationship between Malawi and the United Kingdom

‘No, thank you’, JZU shuts out Chakuamba, the vagabond

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) President John Tembo has categorically rejected the party’s former president and once-upon-a-time Lower Shire political gladiator, Gwanda Chakuamba to rejoin the Malawi’s oldest political grouping.

Tembo said although his party has an open door policy, Chakuamba cannot be welcomed back into the party because he is a leader of his own New Republican Party (NRP).

Chakuamba took over the leadership of the party from former [life] President Hastings Kamuzu Banda but due to continued wrangles with Tembo over leadership, he moved on with his faction to form the Republican Party around 2003

When he faced resistance from his RP politburo over his unilateral decisions, Chakuamba unsuccessfully deregistered the party preferring political asylum in the newly registered Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of late Bingu wa Muthalika.

Shortly, things fell apart with the late wa Muthalika and he found himself without a party membership. Out of frustration, he, together with Ken Zikhale Ng’oma formed the New Republican Party (NRP) which he heads up to date

BREAKING: Defiant JB to fly out to Malabo leaving house on fire

Reports from my reliable sources show that President Joyce Banda is determined to fly out to attend the Africa-South America Cooperation Forum (ASACOF) officially starting tomorrow in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.

With the civil aviation staff on industrial action, the embattled president has sought the services of the Malawi Defense Force (MDF) to man the airport as she ‘walks away from the troubles in her office’.

The president’s action has, however, received strong condemnation from various quarters calling it the most insensitive decision considering that the government is at a standstill due to the nationwide strike by the civil servants who are demanding for better pay.

The industrial action, being co-ordinated by the civil service trade unions, is fast spreading to almost all the government sectors.

Trigger happy cop named, IMF meeting moved out of Capital Hill

Lewis chigadula has been named as police officer who yesterday used a rubber bullet to one of the striking officer at Capitol Hill  Yesterday police fired teargas and rubber bullets to the striking civil servants and injured one person who was rushed to the hospital Over 100 police officers are deployed at Capitol Hill

Meanwhile CSTU president Elijah kamphinda has disclosed of a mass demonstration to take place tomorrow in all the regions in the country. The mass demo will involve all civil servants in various departments
According to kamphinda preparation on the marching are almost troughs as his organization has already contacted the authorities.  He said the mass marching will start at Kamuzu central hospital via city center to OPC where they will finally present their petition

According kamphinda if government will not respond to their petition in time then more action is going to take place In the morning renowned human rights activists Jesse kabwira Kapasula stormed at Capitol Hill for solidarity . Speaking to civil servants Kapasula said it was their right to a peaceful demonstration and no one has the right to stop them. She said they should continue pestering government on their demand

The strike has forced the IMF meeting that was scheduled to take place at the ministry of finance at Capitol Hill to be shifted to IMF offices at the city center  At the press conference by International Monetary Fund (IMF) Mission Chief for Malawi Tsidi Tsikata has faulted the Malawi government for failing to meet agreed targets on social spending, saying the targets were missed during the second quarter ending December 31 under the country’s programme with IMF.

IMF Mission Chief for Malawi Tsidi Tsikata told a press conference in Lilongwe, this morning, that although Malawi’s performance under the programme was generally satisfactory during the quarter, the government missed targets on reserve money and social spending. He said the indicative targets on reserve money and on government social spending were missed by small margins

But Malawi authorities say social protection programs have been successfully scaled up.
Tsikata has however said the mission has since reached staff-level understandings with the Malawi authorities on policies for completing the second ECF review. HE said consideration by the IMF’s Executive Board is scheduled for March and that completion of this review will enable Malawi to receive a disbursement of about US$20 million from the IMF

s65: The Speaker’s ruling that sent 1 MP packing

RULING BY THE SPEAKER ON THE PETITION BY THE UNITED DEMOCRATIC FRONT (UDF) AGAINST A MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT ALLEGED TO HAVE CROSSED THE FLOOR UNDER SECTION 65 (1) OF THE CONSTITUTION

PREAMBLE
Honourable Members, on 19th June 2012, I was petitioned by the United Democratic Front (UDF) through its Secretary General Mr. Kennedy Samson Makwangwala, to declare vacant a seat of a Member of Parliament who was elected to Parliament on UDF ticket, but had resigned from the party on the ground that he has crossed the floor in terms of Section 65(1) of the Constitution.

The Member of Parliament who is alleged to have crossed the floor is Hon. Henry Mpofu Shaba: Blantyre Bangwe.

 

The individual petition was personally served on the said petitioned Member of Parliament on 22nd June, 2012. And the concerned Member has since responded to the allegations of crossing the floor.

RIGHT TO ADMINISTRATIVE JUSTICE VIS-A-VIS APPLICATION OF SECTION 65(1) OF THE CONSTITUTION

The right to administrative justice is entrenched in Section 43 of the Constitution which reads as follows:
Every person shall have the right to—
1) lawful and procedurally fair administrative action, which is justifiable in relation to reasons given where his or her rights, freedoms, legitimate expectations or interests are affected or threatened; and
2) be furnished with reasons in writing for administrative action where his or her rights, freedoms, legitimate expectations or interests if those interests are known.

 

Honourable Members, although it is clear from Section 65(1) that as Speaker of the Malawi National Assembly, I have the legal mandate to decide on issues before me as raised in the petition mentioned earlier but this has to be done by adhering to the rules of natural justice as provided for in Section 43 of the constitution.

Honourable Members, on the issues before me at the moment, section 43 has to be read alongside standing order 46(1) which reads as follows:
The Speaker in exercise of powers given to him/her under section 65 of the constitution shall cause to be given to the member alleged to have crossed the floor a copy of the petition. On receipt of such a copy, a member shall respond within 7 days to the speaker on the allegations. After expiration of the 7 days, the Speaker shall give a ruling on an appointed date, known to the member or party and the petitioner, on the petition in the Chamber.

I wish to observe that this provision has been complied with fully. The petitioned Member received his own copy of the petition on the allegations. He has responded in writing within the prescribed period of time. Furthermore, I made an announcement yesterday about today’s ruling here in the Chamber. This was for the information of the party and the petitioned Member.

 

CONCEPT OF CROSSING THE FLOOR
Honourable Members, I must hasten to mention that the concept of “crossing the floor” is not peculiar to Malawi. Research has shown that comparable to Section 65(1) of our Constitution are the following provisions in the Constitutions of Ghana, Namibia and Zambia, respectively:

GHANA
Section 97(1) provides that a member of Parliament shall vacate his seat in Parliament:

(g) If he leaves the party of which he was a member at the time of his election to Parliament to join another party or seeks to remain in Parliament as an independent member; or

(h) If he was elected a Member of Parliament as an independent candidate and joins a political party

NAMIBIA
Section 48 (1) provides that Members of the National Assembly shall vacate their seats:
(b) If the political party which nominated them to sit in the National Assembly informs the Speaker that such members are no longer member of such political party.

ZAMBIA
Section 71(2) provides that a Member of the National Assembly shall vacate his seat in the National Assembly
(c) In the case of an elected member, if he becomes a member of a political party other than the party of which he was an authorised candidate when he was elected to the national Assembly or, if having been an independent candidate, he joins a political party or having been a member of a political party, he becomes an independent.

THE LAW AND INTERPRETATION OF SECTION 65(1) OF THE CONSTITUTION BY THE COURTS

Section 65(1) of the Constitution provides as follows:
The speaker shall declare vacant the seat of any member of the National Assembly who was, at the time of his or her election, a member of one political party represented in the National Assembly, other than by that member alone but who has voluntarily ceased to be a member of that party or has joined another political party represented in the National Assembly, or has joined any other political party, or association or organization whose objectives or activities are political in nature.

The catch phrase in Section 65(1) of the Constitution is “voluntarily” which by implication, puts all non-voluntary switching of sides outside the purview of Section 65(1) of the Constitution.

At this point, Honourable Members, let me draw your attention to the decision made by the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal in the Matter of the Question of the Crossing of the Floor by Members of the National Assembly (Presidential Reference Appeal No. 44 of 2006). The decision was an appeal against the judgment of the High Court delivered on the 7th November, 2006.

In the Presidential Referral No. 2 of 2005, Justice Kapanda made the following observations on the validity of Section 65(1) of the Constitution:
“We must always remember that Malawi adopted a multiparty system of government whereby parties compete at the polls for seats in the National Assembly. Indeed, we should not be blind to the obvious fact that, when competing, political party candidates use party symbols. Further, this court is aware that most candidates who go into the National Assembly go there because of party colours and party sponsorship. It is for these reasons that the founders and framers of our Constitutions, with a view to promoting multiparty democracy, decided to enact Section 65. This provision definitely had a purpose. It was to discourage the disappearance of party politics. I hasten to add that the section was put in the Constitution so as to promote multiparty democracy… …therefore, Section 65 becomes handy in that it discourages crossing of the floor so that respective political parties continue to represent particular constituencies which voted those particular political party candidates into the National Assembly. It also goes without saying that a particular parties’ manifesto, which is reflected in the votes cast in a particular constituency, would continue to be promoted if crossing the floor is proscribed.

In the same case Justice Twea after having expressed entire approval of the argument by Justice Kapanda said:
“On the issue before this Court therefore that a member of the National Assembly who resigns from a party which is represented in the National Assembly will have ceased to be a member of that party and will be subject to the provision of Section 65(1) of the Constitution. There is no room for one to cease being a member of a party and become independent in the National Assembly”

Further the Supreme Court made the following observations:
“To start with, the limitation placed upon a member of the National Assembly who voluntarily ceases to be a member of the political party that sponsored him or her to the National Assembly and joins another party is a limitation that is prescribed by law, namely Section 65(1) itself. In our view, that limitation or restriction is reasonable. It is trite that the large majority of members of the National Assembly are sponsored by political parties and voted for on political party lines. ……if Section 65(1) was abolished that would allow or promote lack of accountability and integrity as that would allow persons to stand for election on the ticket of one political party, utilise all the resources of that party, be voted into office as a member of that the National Assembly representing that party and then soon thereafter change political parties. Indeed the electorate might feel cheated by such conduct on the part of the member of the National Assembly, so would the sponsoring party”

 

ISSUES BEFORE THE SPEAKER
Honourable Members, as I exercise my mind to issues before me, regard must be had to the operative phrase in Section 65(1) in relation to the petition. In my view, the phrase is “a member who has voluntarily ceased to be a member of that party”.
Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “voluntary” as follows
(a) proceeding from the will or from one’s own choice or consent
(b) SELF-DETERMININ­ G
(c) done by design or intention
(d) having power of free choice

 

The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines the word “voluntary” as: “acting or done or given willingly”. In the context of Section 65(1) of the Constitution a Member of Parliament will be deemed to have crossed the floor if he or she willingly ceases to be a Member of a political party that sponsored him/her into Parliament. Honourable Members, the issue here is whether the member, after writing to me that he has ceased to belong to the UDF and/or has become independent has done so voluntarily
How then can one voluntarily cease to be a member of a political party? Honourable Members, It is my considered view that a Member of Parliament can voluntarily cease to be a member of his/her party in the following different ways:
(a) By an overt act such as writing a letter of resignation.
(b) By explicit conduct like abandoning his/her political party or indeed by joining another party.
(c) By implicit conduct like conducting oneself in a manner that is inconsistent and incompatible with being a Member of that political party.

EVIDENCE PRESENTED BY THE PETITIONER (UDF) IN SUPPORT OF THE PETITION
Honourable members, I will now read out the grounds supplied by the petitioner against the concerned Member.

 

RESPONSE FROM THE CONCERNED MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
In his defence, the concerned Member provided the following response

 

DETERMINATION
In determining whether the concerned member has crossed the floor or not, my office must carefully look at the facts and the evidence before me.
I am mindful of the fact that the petitioner has mentioned about a letter which the concerned Member wrote advising me of his changed political status in the House. I am therefore duty bound to look at the letter written to my office by a concerned Member. I will now read out the said letter.

(READ OUT)

It is clear from the letter I have just read that the Honourable Member for Blantyre Bangwe voluntarily ceased to be a Member of the United Democratic Front (UDF), the party on whose ticket he was voted into office as Member of the National Assembly and declared himself independent.

It is my finding that by voluntarily resigning from the UDF and/or declaring himself independent, Hon. Henry Mpofu Shaba has crossed the floor in terms of Section 65(1) of the Constitution. I therefore declare the seat of Hon. Henry Mpofu Shaba: Blantyre Bangwe vacant.

S65: Speaker to crack his whip on UDF MPs

The Speaker of the National Assembly, Right Honourable Henry Chimunthu Banda is tomorrow expected to crack his whip on errant members of parliament of the United Democratic Front (UDF)

The Speaker’s verdict is yet another litmus test for Peoples Party (PP) government as regards upholding constitutionalism and the rule of law.

UDF members to be affected by the Speaker’s decision are Ibrahim Matola for Mangochi North, who is also Minister of Energy; Henry Shawa for Blantyre Bangwe; Shamil Asibu for Mangochi Southwest and Alfred Mwechumu for Mangochi Northeast. All the members, however, said they are not shaken by the speaker’s imminent announcement.

The UDF members went against their party’s decision to return to the opposition benches following the party’s convention which elected Austin Atupele Muluzi as its President and 2014 elections’ torch bearer. UDF, joined the Joyce Banda government when two of its MPs accepted ministerial positions in Banda’s first cabinet in April last year.

Speaker’s ruling comes against protracted legal battle between former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its MPs who ditched the party for Joyce Banda’s party soon after the death of Bingu wa Muthalika. DPP’s efforts to have seats of their nomadic MPs declared vacant was dealt a heavy blow when Deputy Education Minister Chikumbutso Hiwa obtained a court injunction restraining speaker from evoking section 65.

 

Opposition, rights activists trash Lipenga’s midyear budget statement

Government is to spend MwK67 billion more than initially budgeted in the current 2012/13 fiscal year. Finance Minister Ken Lipenga s in the national assembly when he presented the 2012/13 midyear budget statement.

According to Lipenga, government has increased the total expenditure from the approved MwK408bn to MwK475bn.

Lipenga said the People’s Party (PP) government has lived within the budget between July and December (both months inclusive) arguing it has spent MwK3.8bn less recurrent expenditure than initially budgeted. He said government planned to spend MwK199bn by December 2012 but ended up spending MwK195bn.

The finance minister attributed the development to the austerity measures by the Dr Joyce Banda regime

In his quick response to the statement, Leader of the Opposition in Parliament John Tembo said he doubts Lipenga’s statement as he is fond of lying. “I doubt the minister’s statements because it is only last year when he lied to all Malawians on tax collection and yet he knew that government borrowed from the banks” said Tembo. He said he will make a proper response after scrutinizing the midyear budget documents

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Leader in the house Dr George Chaponda has quashed the statement saying it fails to discuss the current social economic challenges that have come due to the devaluation and the floating of the Kwacha. Chaponda said the minister left out issues such as the exorbitant interest rate and inflation.

On his part, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) parliamentary spokesperson on finance Joseph Njobvuyalema concurred with Chaponda saying the minister failed to tell the nation that the budget has literally failed.

According to Njobvuyalema,  Lipenga should have been open enough to call for proposals on the way forward on the 2012/13 budget from the house instead of painting a rosy picture when on the group there is literary nothing which is promising. He has since challenged government to diversify economic exports than depending on tobacco which is facing a number of challenges.

Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN) Executive Director Martha Kwataine has trashed finance minister Ken Lipenga’s assertion that the current drug shortage is due to judicial lenience in meting out punishments to drug theft offenders. Kwataine has asked government to stop the blame game and move with speed to make sure that drugs are available in all the public health facilities.

One of the country’s renowned economic and social commentators Mabvuto Bamusi has described the 2012/13 midyear budget statement as another missed opportunity after President Joyce Banda’s state of the nation address. According to Bamusi the statement has left out a critical player in the implementation of the budget in the name of the [striking] civil servants.

Read Lipenga’s statement here: Mid Year Budget Statement latest vt 1422013(2)

‘JB’s govt underperforming in all sectors’, MP Edwin Banda

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Member of Parliament Edwin Banda attracted the wrath of the government side in the house when he presented a score card of how the Joyce Banda administration has performed for the last nine months.

Responding to the State of the Nation address delivered by President Mrs Joyce Banda at the opening of the first meeting in the 44th session of Parliament, the Nkhotakota member gave the JB government dismal 43 percent on fuel availability and zero to all government sectors

“Madam Deputy Speaker, to rate this administration in terms of performance,  we can rate it as follows: 43 percent on fuel availability whereby 57 is lost to the pump price; zero on drugs in public hospitals and zero in all govt sectors,” said Banda to the resounding cheers from the opposition benches.

This irked the government side where three deputy ministers stood on point of orders and dressed the member down.

Deputy Minister of Finance, Ralph Jooma, standing on point of order, described the Edwin Banda’s dressing as someone who is going for dinner and that he looked like a street beggar.  He accused the member of being high on intoxicating substance.
MP Banda did not relent. He went on to back his scores with data and facts which brought the house to a halt prompting Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chief whip, Henry Musato ask the Second Deputy Speaker Juliana Mphande to intervene and Jooma to withdrawal his unparliamentary remarks

On his part, MCP’s chief whip, Joseph Njobvuyalema, accused [govt] leader of the house for failing to discipline his members. ‘Madam Deputy Speaker, I don’t understand why the honorable leader of the house is failing to control his shallow ministers’

Deputy Minister Jooma was later forced to withdrawal his demeaning remarks on MP Banda.

Govt bows down to pressure; invites CAMA to discuss the Jan 17 petition

In a dramatic turn of events, the Malawi government has finally softened up and has since invited the Consumers Association of Malawi (CAMA) to a round table discussion on the petition the rights body presented during the non-violent mass action on January 17 2013.

In a letter addressed to CAMA’s Executive Director, John Kapito, Minister of Information and Civic Eduction, Moses Kunkuyu, has invited the organizers of the January 17 demonstrations to a meeting to be held in the Ministry of Finance conference room starting from 2PM on Friday February 15 2013.

“Following our earlier consultation, I am pleased to invite you to a meeting with the Government of the Republic of Malawi on the petition which your organization recently submitted to the Government,” reads the letter dated February 12 2013

In the January 17 petition, the consumer rights body asked the Joyce Banda government to abandon the floatation of the Kwacha against the major foreign currency in the face of a devaluation which was effected soon after the incumbent took over power following the tragic death of Bingu wa Muthalika. Since the devaluation, the Kwacha has been on a free fall which has in turn resulted in a high cost of living.

The petitioners had asked President Mrs Joyce Banda to declare her asset; a constitutional provision that the president and her handlers have vehemently refused to comply; arguing she already did so when she became State Vice President in 2009.

It is yet to be known if the Friday’s discussion will bear any tangible fruits in addressing the plight of a Malawian consumer

‘JB’s speech full of self-glorification and a mockery to suffering Malawians’- Chaponda

Leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Parliament, Dr George Chaponda, yesterday tore apart President Joyce Banda’s State of the Nation Address, calling it ‘filled with empty rhetoric and self-glorification which is a mockery to the suffering Malawians’.

Read the full speech here: GEORGE CHAPONDA’S RESPONSE TO THE STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS