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Malawi’s Parliament in unprecedented disarray: Two Opposition Leaders cause political stir

Written by Chinsinsi Cheketa:

Unprecedented events unfolded in Malawi’s August House on Friday as Malawians witnessed the presence of two Opposition Leaders of Parliament for the first time in history.

Kondwani Nankhumwa sat among independent legislators, while Mary Navitcha represented the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Navitcha assumed the position after Nankhumwa contested in Court the appointment of his successor, George Chaponda, by the DPP after he was expelled from the party. This action received backing from the Office of the Attorney General, which advised the August House to recognize Nankhumwa rather than Navitcha and Chaponda.

Navitcha (F) and Nankhumwa (M).

Speaker of Parliament, Catherine Gotani Hara, acknowledged the appointments of Chaponda and Navitcha as valid Leaders of the Opposition in the house, however, she indicated that the House’s hands were tied on the matter.

She stated that, “The National Assembly was advised by the Office of the Attorney General, that due the Court Order, George Chaponda cannot be recognized as Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly.”

“Additionally, the National Assembly was further advised by the same office, that the National Assembly cannot similarly recognize Mary Navitcha as Leader of Opposition. It is the Attorney General’s opinion that the status quo, as per the Court Order, can only be maintained if Nankhumwa is Leader of Opposition,” added Hara.

Announced the resolution-Hara.

However, the Speaker of Parliament further acknowledged that although Nankhumwa is the current Leader of Opposition due to operation of a Court Order, he is not a member of the DPP as per the communication received from the DPP. In this regard, Nankhumwa cannot be seated with the DPP but will be allocated a seat elsewhere.

Reacting to the development, the DPP through its spokesperson Shadrick Namalomba criticized the National Assembly’s decision to retain the party’s expelled member, Nankhumwa, as Leader of the Opposition, labeling it as political.

Namalomba, expressed surprise at the decision, arguing that the court injunction obtained by Nankhumwa does not prevent the party from electing another Member of Parliament (MP) to the position.

We are surprised-Namalomba.

“We urge the Speaker of the National Assembly to adhere to the standing orders, which allow a party with high representation in Parliament to elect a Leader of the Opposition, rather than maintaining Nankhumwa, who had been expelled from the party,” explained Namalomba.

In accordance with Standing Order 35 (1), a Leader of Opposition is elected by a party which is not in government, and which has the greatest numerical strength in the National Assembly. Further, in accordance with Standing Order 36, a Leader of Opposition can only be removed by the party that elected him or her.

Currently, the DPP is the party not in government which has the greatest numerical strength and is therefore entitled to elect a Leader of Opposition.

It is evident that with the current status quo, both Nankhumwa and Navitcha are geared to respond to President Dr Lazarus Chakwera’s State of Nation Address (SONA) coming Monday delivered Friday during the opening the 50th parliamentary session for the 2024/2025 budget meeting of the National Assembly.

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