Blantyre — When Sam Mpasu, the current Minister of Commerce resigned as Secretary General of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in 1999 and contested for the post of Speaker of the National Assembly, his critics thought he could not be impartial in his dealings with Members of Parliament.
After some time, he proved to be more of an asset than what people thought before. He controlled the National Assembly with professionalism.
His contributions to the National Assembly are many. But he says among others, in collaboration with the University of Malawi and with funding from the United Nations Development Programme he initiated the training for Members of Parliament in Public Speaking Skills, which has enhanced debate in the House.
In addition, he created the Press Gallery in Parliament with funding from the British Council. At first, the State House turned Parliament had no press gallery.
The Press can also use Press Gallery facilities that include computers with e-mail and Internet and telephones within Parliament Building.
Mpasu will also be remembered as Speaker of the National Assembly who united all Members of Parliament despite their political affiliation outside Parliament and instilled discipline among MPs.
Life has not been all that rosy in the National House. He was dragged to the High Court on some occasions after he made a decision to expel some Members of Parliament, notably the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Vice President, Gwanda Chakuamba, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), President Brown Mpinganjira, NDA Organizing Secretary, Peter Chupa and other two officials Gresham Naura and Lizzie Mpinganjira.
This raised a question on the separation of powers between the Judiciary and the Legislature but Mpasu decided to respect the decision of the Judiciary to summon him to give evidence on the expulsion case.
The High Court overturned his decision.
Mpasu says he is not bitter with the High Court decision, saying this shows that democracy is at work.
But who is this Sam Mpasu who is also Member of Parliament for Ntcheu Central?
Mpasu was born on September 17, 1945 and was first elected Member of Parliament for his Constituency on June 15, 1994.
He holds a Cambridge School Certificate and a Bachelor of Arts Degree.
He served in government as Second Secretary (Commerce) at the Malawi Embassy in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and Bonn.
He was also Senior Trade Officer (Domestic) with the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism during the Kamuzu Banda regime.
Then he was appointed Assistant Coordinating Officer for Viphya Pulp Wood and Paper Corporation before quitting to join Lever Brothers as Transport, Warehouse and Distribution Manager.
As Secretary General of the UDF, Mpasu says, his job was to run party affairs on day-to-day basis, strengthening it from the grass root level, adhering to the Constitutional requirements of the ruling Party.
He also held senior cabinet posts of Information when the party took over power from the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) regime.
President Muluzi also appointed him Minister of Education before he resigned to take up his Secretary General post in the ruling party.
As Minister of Commerce, Mpasu has been insisting on protecting and promoting a local trader who has to compete internationally due to globalization.
Mpasu does not want to talk about his resistance to the initial appointment as Commerce Minister, saying this was now water under the bridge.
When President Muluzi first appointed him Commerce Minister, he said he would consult first before taking up the position, arguing that he was not sure of the Constitutional requirements when one was to take up a cabinet post before resigning as Speaker of the National Assembly.
But after discussing with President Muluzi, Mpasu finally took up his cabinet post.
Asked whether he was interested to vie for the presidency of the Party, which will eventually give him a ticket to be the country's next Head of State following the retirement of President Muluzi next year, Mpasu insisted no one has nominated him for the post.
He said if he was to run for the presidency of the party during the Party's Convention, someone had to nominate him first and so far no one has done so.
He could not say which positions he would be contesting either.
The UDF National Executive Committee has nominated Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika as Presidential Candidate for the Party with Dr. Cassim Chilumpha as running mate.
But former Sports Minister Moses Dossi will contest for the same position to challenge Bingu wa Mutharika. However, Mpasu said he could not impose himself as a presidential candidate. He said that would be against democratic virtues.
Apart from his cabinet post, Mpasu is also a Member of the UDF National Executive Committee (NEC).