Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kondwani Nankhumwa remains the interim Leader of House, until further notice, following protests from the opposition side of Parliament.
On Monday, opposition members of Parliament (MPs) observed that the former Leader of the House George Chaponda was not fit to take back his position after findings of a commission of inquiry President Peter Mutharika set up indicated the need for the minister to be probed for alleged corruption.
During the Monday meeting, Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya tasked the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to consult President Peter Mutharika on whether reinstated Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda should continue being Leader of House.
First Deputy Speaker Esther Mcheka Chilenje announced yesterday that the government had made a decision that Nankhumwa should continue to serve in his interim capacity as Leader of House.
The opposition welcomed the news with hand clapping and ululation, but there was no debate on the matter.
As he rose to contribute to debate on a question, Mzimba South West MP Khumbo Kachali congratulated Nankhumwa on remaining Leader of House, adding that the House had started enjoying fruits of his leadership.
After it was confirmed that Chaponda would not be reinstated as Leader of the House in Parliament yesterday morning, we asked State House whether the development was the more reason why the minister should also be relieved of his ministerial position.
Presidential press secretary Mgeme Kalilani explained that as the party in government, DPP decided to let the recently-appointed interim Leader of the House Kondwani Nankhumwa to continue in the caretaker position after taking note that the opposition parties had great reservations about Chaponda because of the investigations over the Zambia maize saga.
“I believe the party made the decision after embracing concerns of the opposition members, who technically form part of government, by the way,” he added.
But he said the issue of relieving, or not relieving, Chaponda of his ministerial duty, rests with the President.
“That is purely the President’s prerogative,” Mgeme stated.
Efforts to find out from the DPP top leadership on where they met on Monday night to decide on the Leader of the House issue, as the Speaker had ruled proved futile
Meanwhile, DPP has distanced itself from remarks Chaponda made on one of the local radio stations that his being targeted smacked of North-South antagonism, considering that the Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe, whose ministry authorised the loan guarantee to buy maize from Zambia, was in the clear.
DPP spokesperson Francis Kasaila said the party saw such remarks as Chaponda’s personal sentiments and not a reflection on any divisions in the party.
He said the party did not see this issue as a regional issue.
Meanwhile, a joint committee of the House is today expected to table its report on Zambia maize procurement scam in which Chaponda has been embroiled.