The opposition in Parliament has expressed worry that most Cabinet ministers do not show up on Thursdays, which is dedicated to private member’s business.
Speaking before an early adjournment yesterday morning due to the absence of some ministers who were expected to tackle questions in the chamber, Thyolo Central legislator Ben Phiri (Democratic Progressive Party-DPP) wondered why opposition motions and questions keep being carried forward.
He said a number of important issues from the opposition have been appearing on order papers for a long time because relevant ministers were not available.
He said: “Madam Speaker, the opposition side has only one day to bring their issues and that is on Thursday, but it has been noted that on this day, most ministers are not available as such a number of important issues have not received justice in this chamber.”
However, House Speaker Catherine Gotani Hara said ministers do not just boycott a sitting without a proper reason.
“For the record, ministers have a lot of tasks to perform, but they don’t just absent themselves from Parliament without informing my office and apart from that we have seen deliberations taking place on Thursdays here,” she said.
Leader of the House Richard Chimwendo Banda said some members and ministers had excused themselves from the House business to attend the funeral of former finance minister Goodal Gondwe who died in Lilongwe on Wednesday.
However, when Parliament resumed in the afternoon it was suspended temporarily due to malfunctioning of speakers in the chamber.
Much of the afternoon’s sitting was characterised by disagreements on whether it was justifiable for the House to discuss a review of the dress code in the country’s public primary schools.
The motion was moved by Zomba-Thondwe MP Roseby Gadama (Independent) who noted that public primary school learners’ uniform for girls is a dress and shirt and a pair of shorts for boys, which exposes their lower legs.
She said the learners mostly sit on the floor,; hence, girls have difficulties in standing and sitting down.
This, she said, leads to loss of concentration in class as they have to continuously worry about exposing themselves inappropriately.
Additionally, Gadama said the uniform expose learners’ lower legs to the cold as their school uniforms do not cover the lower legs.
The motion sought the House to resolve that the Ministry of Education should review its school uniform policy to allow learners to wear long pants or trousers or dresses for girls and a pair of shorts for boys.
But Dowa West legislator Abel Kayembe said it was a waste of time and resources for the House to be discussing a matter which can be handled at ministry level through policy direction.
However, Mangochi Monkey Bay MP Ralph Jooma disagreed with Kayembe, saying if the matter came into the House in form of a motion, it means it was scrutinised by the Business Committee and it passed the test; hence, it was important enough for debate.
After debate, the Speaker said Standing Orders give the minister responsible to go back and make necessary consultations and report back to Parliament within 14 days.
Earlier in the morning, Deputy Minister of Education Nancy Chaoola Mdooko indicated that the ministry would consult widely because the proposed dress code could be insensitive to some cultural beliefs.