Parliament in Malawi degenerated into chaos on Tuesday after President Joyce Banda’s remarks that government will not bow down to demands by legislators to get K10 million (about $27 778) in fuel allowances backdated to 2009.
This was after opposition MPs brought the issue on the floor and expressed their anger at the President’s remarks which some of them described as meant to buy public sympathy.
The chaos, which erupted soon after the House resumed the afternoon sitting, immediately exposed the divisions that are there between the government, mainly among the Cabinet ministers and their deputies, and the backbenchers in the fight for the improved conditions. The demands include an allocation of 500 litres of fuel per month to each MP.
Mangochi Central MP Clement Chiwaya (UDF) raised the issue on the floor, accusing the President of seeking public sympathy by insinuating that the MPs were demanding K10 million each.
He said: “But let me say here that pronouncements at public rallies will not buy any political sympathy. We are aware that our conditions of service are the only ones that do not get respect. Ministers get 1 000 litres of fuel a month and [their] deputies 750 litres each. Do we hear any quacking around?”
Chiwaya, who is also UDF chief whip, also said it is not true that the MPs are demanding K10 million in fuel allowances despite that there were grievances that the MPs have. He said the issues have since been channelled to their employer, which is government.
Earlier, Chiwaya also attacked the President’s frequent travels, the political prostitution which he said is destroying the country and the distribution of free maize which he labelled as “cheap campaign tactics”.
However, it was the fuel allowances issue that attracted anger from the government side, starting with Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ephraim Chiume who defended the President on the issue.
Deputy Minister of Transport and Public Works Chimango Chipimpha Mughogho said the MPs wanted to compare themselves with Cabinet ministers, a statement that attracted murmurs from opposition benches.
As Chipimpha Mughogho held the floor, MPs could be overheard shouting: “Musamapange nkhanza, sidzana munali konkuno inu” whereas others could be heard saying: “Unduna umatha.”
First Deputy Speaker Jones Chingola ignored the insults that ensued thereafter and gave the floor to Lilongwe Msozi North MP Vitus Dzoole Mwale (MCP), but throughout his speech, the MPs continued to trade insults.
The chaos was re-ignited and deepened when Dzoole Mwale, in his contribution, also mentioned about government failing to implement the conditions of service approved in 2008.
Standing on a point of order after Dzoole Mwale mentioned about wastage of resources through the President’s trips, Deputy Minister of Environment and Climate Change Godfrey Kamanya accused the opposition benches of wasting resources by being in the House without transacting much business.
He said: “The member himself has been in this House for three weeks, but no tangible business has come out of this House. He has received money for four weeks, but he has not worked for it. People are watching and history will repeat itself.”
Tuesday’s sitting was in sharp contrast with the one on Monday as only opposition members actively contributed to the debate on the midterm budget.