Opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) says it is ready to defend Speaker Richard Msowoya, who is also the party’s vice-president, from any move to remove him for his position at Parliament.
MCP says it believes the timing of the leakage of media reports about alleged financial mismanagement and that Msowoya engineered the purchase of vehicles for himself, his two deputies and the leader of opposition Lazarus Chakwera at a time when the country was facing financial challenges were merely groundwork to impeach the Speaker.
MCP officials led by publicity secretary Jessie Kabwila, public relations officer Alekeni Menyani, legal adviser Peter Chakwantha and Kasungu Central member of Parliament (MP) Amon Nkhata responded to recent propaganda attacks from the government during a news conference they addressed in Lilongwe on Thursday.
Menyani said MCP was ready to defend the Speaker’s integrity which they said he had demonstrated by not taking sides in Parliament even on difficult issues such as when the housing allowance saga involving his own deputies came to fore.
“We are not afraid to protect the Speaker. He has been following procedures and regulations and no one can attack him without our protection. You cannot gag a Speaker through propaganda,” he said.
When queried to explain the genesis of their conclusion that there was an agenda to impeach the Speaker, Chakwantha said MCP had intelligence of what the government was planning once Parliament meeting, which President Peter Mutharika is opening today, starts in earnest next week.
However, there are procedures to be followed for a Speaker or deputy as outlined in Standing Orders 32 of Parliament which states that the speaker or deputy should be given seven days notice signed by one third of members of the assembly.
Standing Order 32(a) states that the motion shall be debated in the Assembly within 14 days after the speaker receives it and he or she can only be removed by a two thirds majority vote through a secret ballot.
“The speaker would be entitled to be heard in his or her defence either by himself or herself or by a legal representative,” SO 32 (b) states.
Commenting on allegations that the Speaker and the leader of opposition bought expensive vehicles at a time when the government had no funding, Menyani said the party leaders were ready to give back the vehicles if the government reversed the policy on entitlements for them.
Parliament Secretariat has explained that it bought vehicles for the Speaker and his deputies as well as leader of opposition because the previous office holders bought the vehicles they were using as part of their entitlement and Parliament resorted to hiring vehicles for the new team.
MCP also alleged that it had information of government plans to procure vehicles for chief directors and principal secretaries in the Executive and had already purchased 15 vehicles for commissioners of police.
Chipped in Nkhata: “The Judiciary wants to buy vehicles for judges, the Executive is buying vehicles and a councillor is driving a Toyota Prado VX which was bought by the government. These vehicles that the leader of opposition and Speaker are driving are not for MCP. This is why it has a government number plate.”
For the coming Parliament meeting, MCP has said it would continue to press government to implement social responsibilities promised to Malawians such as provision of coupons under the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp), but also provision of health services to all Malawians.
“Rainy season is here, but people have no coupons. There is no fertiliser in the warehouses. Admarc is still not open for people to buy maize, ambulances are not on the road due to lack of fuel and there is no food in hospitals. These are issues worth out energies not attacking the MCP leadership,” said Menyani.
However, leader of the House Francis Kasaila laughed off the allegations as diversion tactics.
“They want to hide behind that issue? The issue in question is, are the issues being raised true or false? We have no plans of such a nature,” said Kasaila, who is also Minister of Transport and Public Works.
Daggers are drawn between the government and the opposition as Parliament opens on Friday for a four-week meeting as the weeks preceding Parliament have been rife with attacks on the leadership of the parties.