Lawyer Justin Dzonzi has dismissed calls by the Forum for National Development (FND) for Speaker of the National Assembly Richard Msowoya to resign for joining the United Transformation Movement (UTM).
Dzonzi expressed his position in an interview with The Nation in the wake of a statement FND issued on Tuesday this week giving the Speaker seven days to step down for resigning from the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) to join UTM which Vice-President Saulos Chilima launched on Saturday in Lilongwe.
In the statement, FND national coordinator Fryson Chodzi claimed that by joining UTM—a political grouping pushing for the Vice-President’s candidacy in the May 21 2019 presidential race—Msowoya crossed the floor and violated Section 65 of the Constitution.
He said: “The incumbent Speaker, by voluntarily resigning from the Malawi Congress Party and wilfully joining UTM, has crossed the floor against Section 65 (1) of the Constitution.
“What is challenging is that the section gives the Speaker powers to declare the seat vacant. In this scenario, Msowoya has put his office into disrepute and in a quandary to make such a determination which affects his position as well.”
But Dzonzi described the calls as “misguided” because Msowoya joined a movement that has no representation in Parliament.
The section punishes members of Parliament (MPs) who voluntarily quit political parties that sponsored them to Parliament and join another party also represented in the National Assembly.
Thus, Dzonzi argued that Msowoya would have been in violation of the Constitution is he joined a party or grouping represented in Parliament.
He said: “To me it is not applicable that the Speaker should resign because the section as far as one reads is materially talking about a situation where a member of Parliament who was elected on a party ticket voluntarily leaves his political party and joins any other party, or any other organisation or association which is represented in Parliament then that member is said to have crossed the floor.
“The critical element is that the party or the association he has joined must have its own members of Parliament in order for it to have the capacity to be joined in terms of Section 65 or to be crossed over to.”
But Dzonzi said the issue can be taken to court for a determination on whether the Speaker has crossed the floor should FND think there is a grey matter on the issue.
Msowoya, who during the UTM launch promised to help Chilima win the 2019 elections, could not be drawn to comment on the calls as he said he was attending a funeral in Mzimba.
Last week, FND also called for Chilima’s resignation as Vice-President for ditching the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) alongside some former DPP national governing council (NGC) members.
In 2005, former president and founder of DPP Bingu wa Mutharika also voluntarily dumped the United Democratic Front (UDF) which sponsored his presidential ticket in the 2004 General Elections and formed DPP. However, he did not resign as Head of State.
Immediate past president Joyce Banda also formed People’s Party (PP) in 2011 after being expelled from DPP, but continued to serve as Stare Vice-President.