Dust is refusing to settle on the battle for Leader of Opposition in Parliament as 22 legislators yesterday obtained a court order stopping Mulanje South West legislator George Chaponda from taking over.
High Court of Malawi Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda granted the order to the legislators siding with embattled incumbent Kondwani Nankhumwa following an application by their lawyer Wapona Kita.
The order came barely a day after Parliament acknowledged the appointment of Chaponda as Leader of Opposition.
Parliament had also invited Chaponda to a Business Committee Meeting today scheduled for 10am.
Led by Chitipa South member of Parliament (MP) Werani Chilenga, the legislators have taken to court Chaponda as first defendant and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as second respondent.
Reads the order: “Upon hearing counsel Wapona Kita and upon reading the sworn statement of Hon. Werani Chilenga, MP and Hon. Mark Botomani, MP filed in support of the application and the skeleton arguments, I am satisfied that a good case has been made out for the grant of an order of interlocutory injunction subject to an inter partes hearing on the 7th of July 2022 at 9[am].”
The order restrains Chaponda from acting or holding the position of Leader of Opposition.
In an interview, Kita said they will also serve Parliament so that it is aware of the development.
Contacted after the order was granted, Chaponda promised to provide an interview later, but did not pick up our calls on several attempts until press time.
But before the court order was made, he said his appointment was in line with Standing Order 35 (1) of the National Assembly which states that the Leader of Opposition shall be elected by the party not in government having the greatest numerical strength in Parliament at any point in time and officially announced as such by the Speaker.
Chaponda, who has been in Parliament for over 17 years, said all those who are not happy with his election can resign and form their own party.
However, estranged DPP secretary general Greselder Jeffrey, who was not part of the DPP meeting in Mangochi that appointed Chaponda, said in a statement that she could not recognise Chaponda because he was simply rubber-stamped.
University of Malawi political scientist Joseph Chunga yesterday warned that the step DPP took to elect Chaponda would culminate into a long court battle.
Blantyre-based political pundit Ernest Thindwa yesterday also said events in the party will only lead to the DPP’s decline in Malawi’s politics as their relevance will continue to wither.
“The issue of Leader of Opposition is an extension to contest for the party leadership. Nankhumwa is interested in competing for the presidency but the current leadership is not interested in him. Essentially the party is getting weaker by the day,” he said.
Political strategist Humphrey Mvula said events in the DPP were unique, and strange, in that the individuals involved are experienced in politics, and that even Mutharika seems happy to fracture his legacy with these developments.
In 2009, the whole Parliament took part in the voting to elect Leader of Opposition after amending the Standing Orders following recommendations from the House’s Legal Affairs Committee.
This culminated in the election of youthful Abel Kayembe, replacing veteran Malawi Congress Party leader John Tembo, who had been Leader of Opposition since 2003. Tembo went to court and got the post back.