As Parliament in Malawi starts its 44th Session this Monday, the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) says it is set to join the tussle over Section 65 and called on Speaker of the National Assembly, Henry Chimunthu Banda, to act despite the current court proceedings on the issue.
In an interview on Friday ahead of the opening of the new session, UDF spokesperson in the House Mahamudu Lali said his party will ensure that the Speaker respects the Constitution and decides the way forward on the section.
He said: “Our position as UDF is that the Speaker should invoke Section 65 regardless of the court proceedings and let the other issues be handled by the courts. Our feeling is that whoever will be the casualties should seek court intervention after they have been thrown out of the House.”
UDF has been silent on the issue following its working relationship with the Joyce Banda administration which saw the party operating from the government side during the last two meetings of the House.
However, following the resignation of the party’s president, Atupele Muluzi, from Cabinet, UDF has since gone back to the opposition to join the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) which has been fighting a lone battle on the section which regulates crossing of the floor among members of Parliament (MPs).
If the opposition decides to join forces on the section, it will be a torrid battle for the ruling People’s Party (PP) side because when President Joyce Banda opened the new session on Friday, the government side had dramatically shrunk to 80 MPs against the opposition’s 110, including several independent MPs.
About 60 MPs, most of them from DPP and now serving the PP, risk expulsion if the Speaker applies the section. During the previous meetings of the House, Chimunthu Banda failed to act because of court injunctions obtained by some of the concerned MPs.
The Speaker’s office is on record as having written the office of the Attorney General, which has the mandate to move the court to vacate the injunction, to have the injunction removed.
The Speaker further indicated that although there have been movements on the attempts to vacate the injunction, the process stalled after DPP applied to join the case as friends of the court.
DPP spokesperson Nicholas Dausi said his party has so far engaged their lawyers to talk to the AG to have him vacate the injunction.
And in an interview soon after his recent rally in the area of Traditional Authority (T/A) Chadza in Lilongwe, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) President John Tembo also said it was in his party’s interest to see the Speaker act on Section 65.