The Malawi Law Society (MLS) has warned that Section 65 is alive and that the Speaker is empowered to dismiss legislators currently flocking to President Joyce Bandaâ€™s Peopleâ€™s Party (PP).
Section 65 of the Constitution regulates the crossing of the floor in Parliament.
MLS secretary Bright Theu issued the warning in an interview on Thursday when three heavyweights on Malawiâ€™s political landscape ditched their parties, with one of them, Uladi Mussa, completely disbanding his party, to join PP.
Nkhotakota South MP Cassim Chilumpha (independent), Blantyre Rural East MP Henry Phoya (Malawi Congress Party) and Maravi Peopleâ€™s Party (MPP) president Mussa of Salima South Constituency announced at PP headquarters in Nancholi, Blantyre, on Thursday that they have joined the defacto ruling party.
Save for Phoya, who was expelled from DPP and Chilumpha, who won his parliamentary seat on an independent ticket despite being connected to the United Democratic Front (UDF), Mussa risks having his seat declared vacant by Speaker of Parliament Henry Chimunthu Bandaâ€”having breached Section 65 of the Constitution, according to Theu.
Vice-President Khumbo Kachali, who is also PP vice-president, welcomed the three into PPâ€™s fold. Each of the three also made a speech to dispel the obvious suspicion of opportunism from parties they have dumped or some Malawians.
Kachali said Thursday was a milestone for the PP, formed early 2011 after he and Banda were expelled from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for allegedly forming parallel structures against the then DPP leader the late Bingu wa Mutharika.
Some members of the late Mutharikaâ€™s Cabinet were present at the function. They included Minister of Industry and Trade John Bande, Deputy Minister of Finance Ralph Jooma and former deputy minister of Gender Nasrin Pillanie. Some DPP MPs such as Felix Njawala (Blantyre Kabula) and Peter Nowa (Mulanje Pasani) were also present.
Chilumpha, who until on Thursday was chairperson in the Friday Jumbe camp of UDF and served as Mutharikaâ€™s estranged State vice-president from 2004 to 2009, said the country is experiencing enormous challenges which need collective efforts to resolve.
He said: “I, as a Malawian, sincerely believe it is my duty to take part in providing solutions to this government. For that reason, as a true patriotic Malawian, I have decided that I can do so effectively by joining PP. I inform Malawians that I have resigned from UDF. I joined politics not for luxury, but to serve people.”
Mussa said his MPP has disbanded. He said his decision has the support of MPP structures and his Salima South Constituency. Mussa was the sole MPP legislator in the 193-member National Assembly.
Phoya, who joined MCP in January this year after his expulsion from DPP last July, said he is aware he has a tough task to explain his position. He was expelled for openly speaking against DPP in Parliament when he described the Injunctions Law as “a bad law.”
Phoyaâ€™s frustrations with MCP and justifications to join PP, was as brief: “When I moved to join MCP, I was convinced MCP was going to help kick out the previous [DPP] government in 2014.
“But I realised later that MCP cannot accommodate anyone who doesnâ€™t come from the Central Region. Only the party president, Honourable John Tembo, genuinely welcomed me. It was shown in different ways that the rest did not welcome me.”
Theu said the Speaker is mandated to declare any seat vacant if an MP, who became an MP under the ticket of a particular party, decides to abandon that party and join another one in Parliament.
Theu said MPs from other political parties can accept Cabinet posts from the President, and be safer from Section 65 depending on their conduct in Parliament.