LILONGWE--“No sane Malawian would want to go back to what Malawi was just six months ago,” says Vice Pres Khumbo Kachali as the government takes to the court of public opinion the controversial case of lawmakers leaving their party and joining another one which is unconstitutional.
The vice president spoke at the launch of an anti-malaria drive which aims to distribute 5.4 million mosquito nets treated with insecticide in Chiradzulu.
Kachali warned that there would be a political price to pay for insisting that Section 65 should be applied.
“History is repeating itself,” he said. “We formed the DPP and sustained it when others wanted to use the section they want to use today.
“This administration needs stability and that can only be provided by those parliamentarians brave enough to stand with Malawians on the road to recovery.”
Kachali’s remarks come in the wake of former ruling Democratic Progressive Party pursuing Section 65 in court. The party, arguing that its members had defected to the ruling People’s Party, had asked Speaker Chimunthu Banda to declare their seats vacant.
But just when the speaker was about to announce his decision, he was stopped by an injunction obtained by lawmaker Chikumbusto Hiwa.
Declaring the seats in question vacant could create problems for the ruling party which doesn’t have its own elected MPs. The party came to power in April after the unexpected death of Pres Bingu wa Mutharika who was succeeded by then Vice Pres Joyce Banda, a former DPP member.
Banda was expelled from the DPP over the party's succession plans. Mutharika wanted his younger brother, Peter, to be his successor at the expiry of his term in 2014. She remained the country’s vice president despite efforts by Mutharika to have her leave office. The vice president went ahead and formed her own party and she became Mutharika’s harshest critic. After assuming power, Banda cobbled together a cabinet from all parties - including DPP - which are represented in parliament.
The power shift in parliament saw DPP lose its hefty majority of 136 MPs down to 53. Some MPs declared themselves independent while others advised the Speaker that they’d joined Banda’s party.
This isn’t the first time for Malawi to have a ruling party in the minority. Mutharika, who first came to power in 2004 under the United Democratic Front (UDF), left the party, accusing his mentor, former president Bakili Muluzi, of trying to control him. Mutharika then formed DPP.
Some UDF MPs left their party to work with DPP which resisted efforts to have their seats declared vacant. But the new ruling party had trouble getting anything done in parliament as it faced an opposition that was determined to see it fail, arguing that the DPP had formed a government through the backdoor.
The people however disagreed with opposition tactics. In the 2009 elections, the DPP won in a landslide and controlled over two-thirds of the seats in parliament. Believing it could do as it saw fit, the DPP used its great numerical strength to enact controversial laws some of which have already been repealed by the Banda administration.
Vice Pres Kachali says DPP should learn from past mistakes and not frustrate government's development efforts.
Things are looking up, he says, pointing to the disappearance of long queues to buy fuel and pledges of financial support from donors - they had cut off aid over Mutharika's authoritarian ways - and credit from global lender International Monetary Fund.
“We are slowly getting there,” says Kachali. “Let’s look at the national good than individual or political gains.”
----©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment.