Persistent water supply problems at Parliament Building in Lilongwe yesterday prompted an impromptu adjournment of proceedings until today when supply is expected to be restored.
The suspension affected the Committee of Supply which is assessing vote-by-vote allocations to government ministries, departments and agencies in the proposed K2.2 trillion 2020/21 National Budget.
Parliament started experiencing water supply problems on Monday when taps in the washrooms were dry and the premises filled with stench.
When business resumed yesterday morning, members of Parliament (MPs) complained about the dry taps at Parliament Building which they said was making life unbearable, especially when using washrooms.
Rising on a point of order, Mulanje Bale MP Victor Musowa (Democratic Progressive Party-DPP) proposed the suspension of the day’s business until water supply was restored.
He said: “Water is life. We cannot continue like this. We are failing to use the facilities around here. I request through you chairperson that proceedings be suspended for now while the problem is rectified.”
Musowa’s comments received overwhelming backing from fellow legislators who agreed that the water problem was serious.
First Deputy Speaker of Parliament Madalitso Kazombo, who was chairing the Committee of Supply, had earlier put his foot down on calls to suspend the proceedings due to water problems.
He said: “The secretariat is on top of things to ensure that the problem is rectified in no time. Even the government is aware of the problem and your welfare cannot be compromised. Let us continue with business.”
But despite the House proceeding with business, MPs continued with verbal protests over the lack of water, saying they felt the hygiene conditions at Parliament Building were seriously compromised.
Later, Kazombo told the House he had established that the problem was more serious than he thought. He attributed the water crisis at Parliament Building to a blockage of water pipes supplying the City Centre.
Leader of the House Richard Chimwendo Banda then moved a motion curtailing business of the day and announced that Parliament will resume today.
He said that instead of half day, business will cover a full day since there will be no meeting on Friday.
Chimwendo Banda said the leadership of both sides of the House took the stand because Thursday will be a public holiday (Mother’s Day) and that on Wednesdays and Fridays Parliament meets half day,.
In an interview, he said: “We will utilise all the necessary hours as agreed.”
By lunch time yesterday, Parliament had passed 12 votes with that of the Ministry of Health deferred despite it being passed. The vote was referred back to the floor through a motion after MPs accused the government side of bulldozing the vote.
Kazombo had quickly called for a voice vote on it and the government side voted for it and passed despite several MPs standing to ask questions on the allocation.
DPP chief whip Symon Vuwa Kaunda, who is Nkhata Bay Central MP, hailed the suspension of business due to water challenges. But he faulted the government side for allegedly trying to silence the opposition by bulldozing the business in Parliament.
Chimwendo Banda said the national budget may be passed today.