Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya yesterday endured a return trip of about 600 kilometres between his base in Lilongwe and Blantyre only to discover that the High Court won’t hear the case against him on Section 65.
The section stipulates that if a member of Parliament (MP) voluntarily leaves a party that sponsored him or her into Parliament to join another one equally represented in the House or a political grouping whose activities/objectives are political, the legislator should be deemed to have crossed the floor and consequently lose his or her seat.
A relaxed Msowoya arrived at the High Court in Blantyre at around 1:50pm accompanied by his lawyer Gustave Kaliwo. The duo then disappeared into the courthouse only to reappear about five minutes later with Kaliwo confirming about the adjournment.
Said Kaliwo: “All I can say is that the case has been adjourned indefinitely until another date is set.”
Presiding judge Mike Tembo on August 28 2018 had adjourned the case which has generated interest due to the prominence of the Speaker’s office.
In the case, a civil society organisation (CSO), Forum for National Development (FND), wants the court to restrain Msowoya from executing functions and duties of the office of Speaker of Parliament for ditching the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and joining the newly formed United Transformation Movement (UTM)
The Speaker announced on July 20 this year that he had joined the UTM which is being led by the country’s Vice-President Saulos Chilima.
Days after the FND application, human rights activist Billy Mayaya applied to join the case. He argued that FND could not tamper with internal procedures already in place to deal with issues pertaining to crossing of the floor.
Msowoya’s case rekindles memories of similar applications on Section 65 which have not yielded results except for one former Mwanza legislator, the late Fred Nseula back in 1995.
Since the Nseula case, no legislator has lost their seat in Parliament for crossing the floor.
In 2015, the Malawi Law Society (MLS) backed the Speaker for not invoking Section 65 on 11 parliamentarians from the United Democratic Front (UDF) on the basis that their joining the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration in a working relationship did not constitute crossing the floor.
The same year, the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal granted the UDF members of Parliament (MPs) an injunction pending judicial review on the Speaker’s impending decision on Section 65.
These cases followed similar cases in 2013 when the High Court in Mzuzu dismissed a State application to consolidate cases for crossing the floor involving then MPs Patrick Ackim Mwanza and Henry Shaba.
But the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) had expressed concerns over the continued holding of implementation of Section 65 through court injunctions.
In 2014, Edge Kanyongolo, an associate professor of law at Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, said the provision would only be successfully implemented if title deeds of execution were removed from the hands of the Speaker who, in his view, is an interested party. n