Sec 65 debate: Until when?

June 22, 2012

You do not need to be super brainy to figure out that most politicians have no morals and that principles do not matter in their world, but lately DPP has gone to new frontiers as far as exacting political revenge and vendetta seeking on grandest scale is concerned.

The issue of the day is Section 65 of the Constitution which prohibits MPs from leaving parties that sponsored them and joining other political entities, and the debate is whether Speaker Henry Chimunthu Banda should declare vacant seats of parliamentarians that joined the ruling PP.

This is an example of DPP leadership once again acting not in the best interest of Malawians but to exact revenge on their colleagues who have chosen to work with President Joyce Banda.

And to me that is a problem because I am always suspicious of politicians who want to use the law to settle political scores. And make no mistake in such circumstances, what matters is not your interest nor mine. It is theirs and it stems from pure jealousy and nothing else.

To put it more clearly, the DPP cannot stand on a higher moral ground today to pontificate about the use of Section 65 due to petty jealousy when they spent 2004-2009 fighting the law to survive by using injunctions and court referrals to buy time. It is just immoral and plain wrong.

If they have any sense of shame, they should have left that task to people whose hands are clean on the matter to push Chimunthu Banda to do what is right for the country in the circumstance.

And talking about doing what is right, the Speaker, it seems to me, has no choice but to do what the law says. His ruling on Thursday that the petitioners should provide evidence that some MPs have crossed makes sense because he cannot not just “convict” without substantiation. I would be unfair to the concerned MPs but I hope lack of merit in the petitions is not an excuse to buy time.

Those who are saying there would be ramifications to hold so many by-elections are missing the point. Laws are laws and if we start to find excuses not to apply them, then that is the sure way of creating the law of jungle.

Section 65 was put in our Constitution to control greed among our MPs and instil a sense of discipline. It is meant to bring order and catch cheats. An MP that campaigns on a party ticket wins on that ticket. If he wants to change, it can only be fair if he or she goes back to the constituency to let people endorse the new agenda and identity.

Forget about “my constituents have endorsed it” gimmick MPs shamelessly dupe us with when they have changed sides. More often than not these “constituents” are their inner circle and a few greedy chiefs who are paraded on TV after being treated to a sumptuous meal paid for by the MP in question. It is all shameless lies.

An endorsement can only be made in a similar manner the MP was originally elected and that is during the ballot and nothing else.

And for how long and until when shall this country be subjected to a dreary and a time-consuming debate about Section 65 at the expense of other important matters like putting the economy right.

For over 10 years now, this been the trend everytime there are new permutations on the political scene. The first term of former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika was more or less defined by Section 65.

He never hid his deep disdain for the law for the simple reason that it threatened the survival of his administration after he left UDF, a party that sponsored him and form his own DPP in 2005.

Mutharika referred the law to the Constitutional Court in 2006 for review. His argument was that it violates other provisions in the Constitution such as freedom of association and that it must be declared invalid. The court flatly rejected this argument.

Not satisfied, the former president appealed against the ruling in the Supreme Court in 2007. Heading a panel of five Supreme Court judges, the then Chief Justice Leonard Unyolo smacked him right into the face by declaring the law valid.

The judges went further to find that the responsibility of the Judiciary lies only in independently interpreting, protecting and enforcing laws and not invalidating them as Mutharika wanted. They called it an absurdity.

The Special Law Commission has also agreed unanimously to retain Section 65 in the Constitution and the argument is the same and that is to maintain control over greedy and nomadic MPs thereby enforcing accountability and integrity so that both the electorate and the sponsoring party do not feel cheated.

And so the question should once again be: Why are we having this debate? It is not even about the survival of Joyce Banda’s government up to 2014 because MPs do not have to join PP to support government.

Not all MCP MPs have joined PP and yet it is common knowledge that the party’s president John Tembo is in the pocket of Joyce Banda and abrogated his responsibility of checking government excesses as Leader of the Opposition as soon as Mutharika died in April.

MPs do not have to join PP to support government. Those that say so are just greedy and looking for economic gains. This is politics of the belly and nothing else.

We have had enough debate about Section 65 and the law should simply rule.

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