Malawi Govt Petitions Speaker - Nankhumwa Says 'Adopt Inclusive Leadership Approach in Parliament'

8 October 2019

The Office of Speaker of Parliament demands that the one occupying it must lose their 'partisan robes' and discharge their duties based on competence and above-board integrity, Leader of Government Business in Malawi Parliament, Kondwani Nankhumwa has told Speaker of Parliament, Catherine Gotani Hara.

Leader of the House Nankhumwa (L) accuses the Speaker Gotani Hara of "showing glaring bias against the government side" in a letter which has also been copied to Clerk of Parliament Fiona Kalemba (r)

Nankhumwa says in a letter to the Speaker that he is "afraid to conclude that this has not been the case with the Speaker as she has demonstrated that she panders to narrow political interests and sometimes even plain disregard of parliamentary ground rules".

In a letter dated, 7th October, 2019, addressed to Gotani Hara and copied to the Clerk of Parliament, Leader of the Opposition, Government Chief Whip and Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, whose copy Nyasa Times has seen, Nankhumwa accuses the Speaker of "showing glaring bias against the government side during debates and other related matters".

"Your decisions and calls over so many matters in the House recently have left a lot to be desired, and oftentimes, I have been left wondering whether this is the new way of doing things.

"A very good example is the way you handled the issue of Blantyre City South East Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Member of Parliament (MP) Honourable Sameer Suleman and Dowa East, MCP MP, Honourable Richard Chimwendo Banda. Despite the fact that the two MPs committed similar offences under parliamentary standing orders, it was clear you were only interested in disciplining Honourable Suleman against considered advice from me and a majority of members of the Business Committee of Parliament.

"Were it not for the unanimous protests and calls for equal treatment from government members in the House, Honourable Chimwendo Banda would have gone scot free without being punished," reads the letter.

He says the Speaker's decision "on Friday, 4th October, 2019, to disallow my motion for extension of time to allow members debate the issue of confirmation of Mr. Duncan Mwapasa as Inspector General of Police was also wrongly conceived".

"Even after more members, notably on the government side, voted in favour of the extension of time than those that were against it, you went ahead to overrule the majority decision," Nankhumwa's letter reads.

Nankhumwa, who is also Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development and Mulanje Central MP, reminds the Speaker that she has served as an MP for many years and that therefore she is well aware that "Speaker of Parliament has no mandate to overrule a decision of the House", but accepts and implements decisions of the members, especially when such decisions are arrived at through a voting process in the House.

"Your decision to curtail debate on confirmation of Mr. Duncan Mwapasa was politically motivated and dictatorial, especially considering that there are precedents where time has been extended to allow members to discuss and conclude important business in the House.

"It is also on record that Parliament has even convened on a weekend, before, to transact urgent national business. A case in point is when Parliament convened on Saturday, 29th May, 2010 to host the visiting United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon," the letter says.

Nankhumwa says he is "well aware that Gotani Hara was elected to Parliament under the auspices of MCP", and that her immediate instincts would naturally drift towards her political party. However, Nankhumwa advises the Speaker to adopt a more inclusive approach that takes views and input from both sides of the isle in the House to ensure that the Legislature represents the true aspirations of all Malawians regardless of political affiliations.

He says what is particularly worrying to him is that the Speaker has been in office for a few months, "and with your kind of biased leadership, I fear for the future of this Parliament, especially regarding its role in providing checks and balances in a democracy".

Nankhumwa confirmed to have written the Speaker "for posterity's sake". Speaker Gotani Hara's phone went unanswered after several attempts were made to seek her comment.

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