Speaker of the National Assembly Henry Chimunthu Banda has finally exercised his powers to revoke Section 65 of the Malawi Constitution, which bars members of parliament from crossing the floor with his first victim being Blantyre Bangwe legislator Henry Mpofu Shawa.
The Speaker’s ruling on the Section came after on Monday Chimunthu Banda announced that he would make a ruling on a United Democratic Front (UDF) petition against their MPs who have joined the ruling People’s Party (PP) submitted during the last meeting of the House in November last year.
Contrary to the expectations of many in the House that the concerned MPs will be Mangochi north’s Ibrahim Matola, who is also currently the Minister of Energy in the PP government, Mangochi north east’s Alftred Mwechumu and Shamil Asibu for Mangochi south west, the Speaker had to throw out the unexpected Shawa.
Delivering his ruling Chimunthu Banda observed that Matola was not among those who were petitioned by the UDF.
While he said Mwechumu and Asibu were saved by a Mzuzu High Court injunction after some PP MPs mentioned in a DPP petition which is currently a centre of contention in the court, applied to have the injunction extended to the three. Apparently the court ruling on the application also included Matola.
“In as far as this order is concerned Honourable Shawa is not part to it and I shall proceed to provide a ruling on the matter,” said Chimunthu Banda after providing background to the petitions from the UDF.
He explained that his ruling was based on a UDF Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala’s petition of June 19, 2012 which argued that the legislator was elected to Parliament on UDF ticket, but had resigned from the party and that on the ground of Section 65 he has crossed the floor.
He said after following all the procedures, getting responses from Shawa and considering all the facts before the House he (the Speaker) was of the opinion that the MP had indeed crossed the floor.
Chimunthu Banda said even the letter which Shaba wrote his office it was “clear that the MP had voluntarily ceased to be a Member of the UDF, the party on whose ticket he was voted into office.”
“It is my finding that by voluntarily resigning from the UDF and/or declaring himself independent, Honourable Henry Mpofu Shaba has crossed the floor in terms of Section 65(1) of the Constitution. I therefore declare the seat of Hon. Henry Mpofu Shaba: Blantyre Bangwe vacant,” said the Speaker in concluding his ruling.
During the ruling the Speaker made reference to laws from other countries such as Zambia, Uganda and Namibia on the crossing of the floor and also took time to define ‘voluntarily resigning’ from one’s party, a word which he said was central in determining if one has indeed crossed the floor.
Chimunthu Banda also made citations of two High Court rulings where the court made observations that the founders and framers of the Constitution put Section 65, with a view of promoting multiparty democracy and that the limitations for movements of MPs were reasonable.
“This provision definitely had a purpose. It was to discourage the disappearance of party politics. I hasten to add that the section was put in the Constitution so as to promote multiparty democracy,” said Chimunthu Banda.
Shaba, who voluntarily walked out of the House as soon as the pronouncement was made, could not immediately comment on the ruling and what course of action he will take to save himself.
“No comment… I have nothing to say on that,” this is all he could say to almost all the questions.