By Duncan Mlanjira
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) President, Peter Mutharika has fired four members of the party — vice-president for the South, Kondwani Nankhumwa; secretary general, Grelzeder Jeffrey; treasurer general Jappie Mhango and Member of Parliament for Mulanje West, Yusuf Nthenda.
Nankhumwa, who is Leader of the Opposition, has since been replaced by Joseph Mwamvekha as vice-president for the South; Jeffrey by Samuel Tembenu and Mhango by Nickson Masebo.
The development comes after Nankhumwa rebelled against Mutharika’s decision to replace him as Leader of the Opposition in favour of Francis Kasaila and when the DPP president went ahead to inform Speaker of Parliament on the position of Leader of the Opposition, Nthenda moved a point of order that what Mutharika was trying to do was against Standing Orders.
Nthenda reminded the House that Mutharika does not have powers to elect who to be a Leader of Opposition but rather the DPP MPs who do so.
Nthenda had disclosed that the DPP MPs did not sit down to nominate the members that should be considered for appointed as Leader of Opposition as per Parliamentary Standing Orders.
The Orders say that whenever it is necessary for the Assembly to elect Leader of Opposition, whether after a general election or when a vacancy in that office has occurred in any other way, the procedure for election shall be provided.
“Subject to sub-rule (3), any member of the opposition side of the Assembly, may nominate another Member of the Opposition for the position of the Leader of the Opposition,” say the Standing Orders.
“A proposal made under sub-rule (2) shall be seconded by another Member of the Opposition [and] the Speaker shall allow nominations not exceeding four for the position of the Leader of the Opposition.”
The Orders says voting shall be by secret ballot and that every member present in the Assembly shall indicate on a ballot paper to be supplied by the Clerk [of Parliament], the name of the proposed person whom he or she desires to be Leader of the Opposition.
“The member shall deposit his or her ballot paper in the ballot box at the Clerk’s table in such a manner as not to disclose for whom he or she is voting.
“When all ballot papers of members desiring to vote have been deposited in the ballot box, the Clerk shall count the votes in the presence of at least one member designated as a monitor for each candidate nominated for the position of the Leader of the Opposition.”
Following the arguments presented by Nthenda, the Deputy Speaker deferred Mutharika’s decision communication and that the Leader of the Opposition remains Nankhumwa.
The Deputy Speaker asked the DPP MPs to go back to their drawing table and come up with a name.
Meanwhile, the election of the Leader of the Opposition went ahead and Nankhumwa emerged the winner.
Nankhumwa had a strong backing of a majority of the DPP MPs, led by Jeffrey, Mhango and Nthenda.
On Thursday, Jeffrey — as DPP’s secretary general— issued a communication inviting the party’s National Governing Council (NGC) to a meeting scheduled for Saturday, October 3 at Capital City Motel in Lilongwe.
The agenda was to discuss the forthcoming by-elections, post elections postmortem and any other business.
The party’s spokesperson, Brown Mpinganjira swiftly moved in to counter Jeffrey’s communication, saying the intended NGC meeting was not sanctioned nor called for either the Saturday one or any in the next few days.
“The party has already announced plans to hold an NGC meeting after the Functional Review Committee has completed its task and presented its findings and recommendations to the Central Committee,” Mpinganjira said.
“The power to call for an NGC meeting does not lie in any particular individual, however high their station in life might be — rather such powers lie in the institutions of the party.”
He further announced that the party’s Central Committee, chaired by Mutharika normally determines when such a meeting should take place and from there the secretary general informs all NGC members of the planned meeting.
“Any announcement of an NGC meeting that has not evolved from this process is merely aimed at sowing seeds of confusion among the rank and file of the party.
“The party would like to urge all its members and supporters to be vigilant against any attempts from any quarters to divide the party,” says the statement from Mpinganjira.