First Deputy Speaker Madalitso Kazombo yesterday rebuffed Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on its communication to change the Leader of Opposition in Parliament (LoP) after some of the party’s legislators claimed they were not consulted.
Making announcements at the start of yesterday’s business, Kazombo said DPP president and the country’s immediate past president Peter Mutharika had communicated about the party’s changes to the effect that Nsanje Central legislator Francis Kasaila should replace Mulanje Central member of Parliament (MP) Kondwani Nankhumwa as LoP.
He said Mutharika’s communication also indicated that DPP whip is Nkhata Bay Central MP Symon Vuwa Kaunda with Nkhotakota North East MP Martha Lunji as his deputy, spokesperson on legal matters as Machinga Likwenu MP Bright Msaka with Chiradzulu South MP Joseph Mwanamvekha as spokesperson on finance.
But rising on a point of order immediately after the announcement, Mulanje West MP Yusuf Nthenda (DPP) said as the party’s MP he did not participate in the process of choosing the LoP.
He said: “Mr First Deputy Speaker, Sir. I am standing on Standing Order 35 as read together with Standing Order 36 and 3. As a bonafide member of the Democratic Progressive Party, I did not participate in the election of the Leader of Opposition who has been proposed.”
Parliamentary Standing Order 35 (1) provides that the LoP “shall be elected by the party not in government having the greatest numerical strength in Parliament at any point in time and officially announced as such by the Speaker”.
In terms of removal, Standing Order 36 says the LoP may be removed by the opposition side in Parliament “through a caucus of all members of the opposition side”.
Kazombo said procedurally legislators do not comment on communication from the Speaker but it was clear from Nthenda’s submission that elections were not held.
To a round of applause, he said: “Therefore, I throw back this issue to the DPP to give us the name of who will be elected. As it stands now, Honourable Nankhumwa remains the Leader of Opposition.”
Ironically, Mutharika also appointed Nankhumwa into the role in June this year after losing the court-ordered June 23 Fresh Presidential Election, a development that pushed DPP to the opposition side.
The position of LoP has always sparked controversy. During the tenure of Bakili Muluzi, former Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president the late Gwanda Chakuamba and his then deputy John Tembo also fought over the same. In the administration of DPP under former president Bingu wa Mutharika (deceased), Tembo was also toppled from the position by Dowa legislator Abele Kayembe.
However, in 2009, Justice of Appeal Rezine Mzikamanda, then a judge of the High Court, restored Tembo as the LoP after Kayembe had claimed to have been endorsed by MCP.
Reacting to the DPP fight in Parliament, political analyst Humphrey Mvula said the events reflected a toxic relationship among party members. He warned that intimidating each other within the party will be counterproductive.