Parliament was once again briefly derailed yesterday when opposition members stopped Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda from answering questions for his ministry.
Opposition members of Parliament (MPs) argued that since Chaponda is currently being investigated by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), he was not supposed to answer any questions in his capacity as minister.
However, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chief whip Henry Mussa stepped in to save the situation when he advised First Deputy Speaker Esther Mcheka Chilenje to allow the particular question, on the order paper, to be skipped.
But according to the order paper, Mzuzu City MP Leonard Njikho DPP wanted to ask the Minister to consider setting up a dairy processing factory in Mzuzu to assist farmers in and around the constituency.
The order paper farther claimed that the Mzuzu Dairy Farmers Association produces over 18 000 litres of milk per day, but have nowhere to take it as the Milk Act does not allow them to sell raw milk.
Chaos started the minute Chaponda rose to respond to the question as opposition MPs stopped him, saying he could not do so since he was being investigated in the Malawi/Zambia maize deal.
The noise that erupted from the opposition benches drowned whatsoever Chaponda was saying.
Kasungu South East MP Khumbidze Chiponda (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) was heard describing Chaponda as not fit to answer questions in Parliament because he is being investigated for his involvement in the maize scandal.
“Madam Deputy Speaker, it is not in order for the Minister of Agriculture to respond to questions under his ministry,” he said.
But Mcheka Chilenje tried to intervene, saying; “Can the honourable MP be heard in silence please? This is an honourable House and we cannot allow such things to happen.”
But her remarks got more points of order from the opposition with some shouting that Chapoda was a convict.
After some consultations, Mussa asked the House to skip the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development question to concentrate on other questions.
In an interview, leader of opposition Lazarus Chakwera said government has a collective responsibility and can ably respond to questions which were addressed to the minister.
“The President needs to do the needful, otherwise we have [taken] our position,” he said
However, Leader of the House Kondwani Nankhumwa said government is consulting and will soon come up with a solution.
“We are negotiating on the way forward and once a resolution has been made we will ably communicate,” he said.