Balaka North member of Parliament (MP) Lucius Banda yesterday lived up to his stand not to go with the flow and follow the party’s legislators who have relocated to the government side in Parliament.
Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya announced in Parliament that all UDF legislators except Banda had moved from opposition to government benches in the 193-member National Assembly.
Banda, who is leader of UDF in Parliament, defied his party’s decision to relocate from opposition to government benches in the National Assembly saying “it is not necessary for me”.
When Parliament adjourned after President Peter Mutharika delivered his State of the Nation Address that marked the official opening of the budget meeting of Parliament in Lilongwe, some MPs, mostly from opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP), People’s Party (PP) and some independents were seen mobbing Banda either by shaking his hand or embracing him.
Banda’s decision has come after almost one year of an undefined working relationship between UDF and the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Parliament that also saw Mutharika including in his Cabinet UDF president Atupele Muluzi.
The new arrangement follows UDF’s request and subsequent approval by the Speaker.
Banda told The Nation edition of Wednesday that much as he appreciated his party’s decision, he could not be swayed to join government benches because there was no need to do so.
He said: “It [the arrangement] has been negotiated for some time until I saw that I could not convince everybody and decided to make my own choice. I also think I can still speak on behalf of UDF while sitting on opposition benches and keep good working relationship with government while appreciating good points that come from the opposition.”
For a long time, UDF’s decision to move to government benches has not been popular among its legislators who were divided on the issue as established by a snap survey The Nation carried out in February this year.
UDF won 14 seats in the 193-member National Assembly during the May 20 Tripartite Elections.
In The Nation survey involving 13 of the 14 UDF MPs, two said they had no problems moving, one gave an outright ‘No’, three were undecided and five said they would follow the party’s position.
Two of the 14 legislators—Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Atupele Muluzi and Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament Clement Chiwaya—would not be affected by the move by virtue of their positions.