Speaker of Parliament Catherine Gotani Hara on Monday curtailed debate on the confirmation of Malawi Police Service Acting Inspector General (IG) Duncan Mwapasa as IG following a misunderstanding that ensued in the House on a constitutional interpretation.
Minister of Homeland Security Nicholas Dausi had just moved a motion for the House to confirm Mwapasa when legislators from the opposition, especially Malawi Congress Party (MCP), wondered why the House wanted to defy the constitutional provision in Section 154 (1).
Standing on a point of order, leader of opposition in Parliament Lobin Lowe said it was out of order for the House to proceed with the confirmation of an IG when incumbent Rodney Jose, currently on leave pending retirement, is constitutionally still IG.
“So, why should we confirm someone when the Constitution is clear on that? We need to follow our own laws,” he said.
But Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Bright Msaka, a lawyer, used the Interpretation Act 30 (1), saying there is no point to withhold the confirmation because of this section as the law is clear.
He said: “Where [the] substantive holder of any public office constituted by or under any Act is on leave pending relinquishment by him of such office, it shall be lawful for another person to be appointed substantively to the same public office.”
But Lilongwe Mpenu member of Parliament Eisenhower Mkaka (MCP) cited Section 4 of the Constitution which provides that the Constitution shall bind the Executive, the Legislative and Judicial organs at all levels and that all Malawians are entitled to equal protection of the supreme law and laws made under the same.
The Speaker then used Standing Order 37 to suspend the debate on confirmation until she consults on the interpretation of the law.
She said: “I will give my ruling tomorrow [Tuesday] afternoon.”
Earlier, after a vote to allow all relevant Standing Orders to be varied to facilitate the confirmation of Mwapasa was granted, the Public Appointments Committee and spokespersons from the opposition parties gave mixed views on the IG-designate’s suitability.
In his response, MCP spokesperson on the issue, Mkaka said Mwapasa does not have the academic qualification for the post.
But leader of United Democratic Front (UDF) in the House, Lillian Patel, advised fellow MPs to remove nepotism when it comes to matters of national importance.
People’s Party leader in the House John Chikalimba agreed with Patel and urged fellow legislators to vote based on conscience.
Public Appointments Committee vice- chairperson Rachel Mazombwe said her committee observed that Mwapasa had the experience and qualifications because of the years he has served in the police.
Mwapasa, 49, joined the police service in 1997.