Leader of opposition in Parliament Lazarus Chakwera yesterday snubbed an arrangement to have a Cabinet minister answer his question posed to President Peter Mutharika, insisting the President should respond in person in the National Assembly.
When he was given the floor to table his question, Chakwera—who is also Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president and Lilongwe North-West member of Parliament (MP)—withdrew it, insisting that he would like to engage the President directly.
He said he is prepared to wait and table the question when Mutharika would be free from what had been reported to be “other pressing matters” which had prevented him from responding to parliamentary summons to personally answer questions from four MPs in the House as provided in the Constitution.
Section 89(4) of the Constitution requires the President to appear before Parliament and answer questions “at such times as may be prescribed by the Standing Orders of Parliament or a motion.”
Since the adoption of the democratic Constitution after the dawn of plural politics through a 1993 National Referendum, only former president Bakili Muluzi fulfilled the provision and twice answered MPs’ questions in Parliament.
In his question, as presented on the Order Paper, Chakwera would like the President to explain why there is seemingly a lack of action when all the economic indicators such as the inflation rate, the exchange rate and economic growth, point to the country moving in a reverse direction.
He queried whether the President’s inaction, and his claim that problem-solving is everyone’s responsibility, was not an abdication of his policy and its execution, according two articles of the Constitution.
After Chakwera withdrew his question, Second Deputy Speaker Clement Chiwaya, who was presiding over the day’s business, gave the floor to Mzimba South-West MP Khumbo Kachali (People’s Party-PP) to pose his question to the President.
But Kachali, the country’s immediate past vice-president, was interrupted in mid-sentence by Leader of the House Francis Kasaila, who is also Minister of Transport and Public Works and Nsanje Central MP (Democratic Progressive Party-DPP).
Kachali’s question to Mutharika sought an explanation from the President on what his administration is doing about the critical shortage and unavailability of maize stocks in most depots of the State produce trader, the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc).
In his intervention, Kasaila expressed surprise that things had panned out that way, saying the Business Committee had earlier facilitated the arrangement that a Cabinet minister who had been delegated by the President would respond to Chakwera’s question yesterday.
He said the arrangement was that other questions were to be tackled tomorrow by another Cabinet minister, who was then not in the House but had also been delegated to respond on the President’s behalf.
Said Kasaila: “I am surprised that we are proceeding the way we are.”
He said the arrangement was supposed to be made known to the concerned individuals MPs.
At that point, Kasaila suspended the presidential question-time session, probably sensing that the opposition would insist on the President making the responses to their questions.
There was a lack of fluency to proceedings in the afternoon session, which started with a vote of thanks from Chakwera to MPs and other well-wishers who attended the burial of Mchinji West MP Billy Kanjira Banda (MCP) in Mchinji on Tuesday.
He hoped that the unity the politicians and other Malawians demonstrated during the funeral would continue in the interest of national development and harmony.
The other business concerned the second reading of bills on Electronic Transactions and Payment Systems.
Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe also tabled two reports from the Auditor General’s Office. The first was on the government’s accounts and the other was on the performance audit on waste management by city councils under the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.
Noting that most of the reports had not been circulated in advance, Kasaila later asked for an early adjournment of the House at 4:44pm, about 16 minutes earlier, to allow MPs have time to read the reports before returning to the House this morning.