When the cookie crumbles

Malawi’s Democratic Progressive Party ( DPP ) on Thursday walked out of parliament in protest against the House Speaker after he refused to declare vacant 40 seats belonging to MPs who defected to the new ruling Party after the death of president Bingu wa Mutharika in April.

DPP, the country’s main opposition and late Mutharika’s party, had petitioned the Speaker to remove 40 legislators who left and joined the People’s Party – new ruling party.

But Speaker  Henry Chimunthu Banda threw out the  petition on Section 65 — a law that stops legislators from joining another party other than the one that sponsored their candidature.

The protest by the DPP is a dramatic change of heart. When they were in power, they fought hard to repeal Section 65 which they describe as then, as unconstitutional;

They wanted it repealed to stifle a challenge from the United Democratic Front who lost their members to DPP and wanted their seats declared vacant for crossing the floor.

But on Thursday, the first to walk out was DPP Leader in the House George Chaponda. Then the party’s President and late Mutharika’s young brother Peter, followed with his deputy  Goodall Gondwe, second vice President Jean Kalirani, and several others living the benches empty.

“It seems the Speaker has turned himself into a judge and would want to start interpretations the law which is not his duty,” said Nicolas Dausi-a senior member of the party’s politburo.

He said the DPP regards the ruling as unfair and feels that the Speaker has failed to guide the House on the matter.

Later in the afternoon as the House the Speaker  made an announcement that he has received communication from the DPP with fresh evidence on the matter.

He promised to make a ruling on Friday morning.

Dausi, when asked, said that the party had made  new submissions to the Speaker.

“We have written him reminding him that may be he has forgotten that
on May 24 he read out the names of those who had written him, secondly
we have also told him that even the party has letters from people who
left the party…” he said.