Parliamentary proceedings were suspended for an hour yesterday morning following a request by members of Parliament (MPs) for the Business Committee to discuss a court order Transglobe Limited issued to Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and Irrigation chairperson Joseph Chidanti Malunga.
The MPs argued it was not proper for business of the day to proceed when one of them has been accused by Transglobe, a company his committee was probing. They asked the office of the Speaker and the Business Committee to take quick action on the matter.
Transglobe Produce Export Limited filed contempt of court charges against Malunga for ordering the company to withdraw an order it obtained stopping the implementation of the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp).
The company argued Malunga’s sentiments undermined judicial independence.
Standing on a Point of Order, Rumphi East MP Kamlepo Kalua (People’s Party-PP) asked Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya to tell the House the progress of Malunga’s issue, which they raised the previous day.
“The one taken to task is one of the chairpersons of this House. We would like to know what is happening,” he said.
In her response, the First Deputy Speaker Esther Mcheka Chilenje said the issue was already responded to by the Speaker, but she reiterated that the Legal Committee of Parliament was looking into the matter and that the House would be advised on the outcome.
Salima North West MP, who is also chairperson for the Women Caucus, Jessie Kabwila (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) said the development is sad and it has brought fear to chairpersons of parliamentary committees.
Leader of the House Kondwani Nankhumwa (Democratic Progressive Party-DPP) suggested that the legal team of the House looks into the matter and let the proceedings continue.
“For the time being, let us proceed with the business as we wait for the Business Committee to discuss,” he said.
In an interview after the suspension, Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairperson Alekeni Menyani, speaking on behalf of all committee chairpersons, said the move by Transglobe is uncalled for and as committees they will stand in solidarity with Malunga.
He said the Agriculture and Irrigation Committee called for a probe into Transglobe in their past and present tenders, so did other committees but it was sad that only Malunga has been dragged to court. According to him, this shows that people do not respect the oversight role that Parliament plays.
Over the past months, in his capacity as Agriculture Committee chairperson, Malunga has been talking tough against Transglobe following the company’s involvement in the Zambian maize procurement scam. The company was subsequently left out of the list of suppliers of the 2017/18 Fisp. n