Perhaps for the first time since the re-advent of multiparty politics in 1994, two branches of the government that deal with law-making and the interpretation of laws have found themselves crossing paths, which, while welcome in a democracy, serves no good purpose under the circumstances.
We are talking of an issue that would have compromised chances of poor subsistence farmers having a decent harvest next year. At play here is the issue of court action taken against Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture Chairperson, Joseph Chidanti-Malunga, who has been taken to court by a private company over remarks he made in the course of his duty.
Chidanti-Malunga was audacious when Transglobe Produce Exports Limited obtained a court order that impacted on some aspects of the Farm Inputs Subsidy Programme (Fisp), a development that did not go well with the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture.
Chidanti-Malunga felt duty-bound to stand for the rights of Fisp beneficiaries, saying the court order was a recipe for catastrophe as it would, among other things, compromise Malawi’s chances of registering a bumper harvest next year.
It was felt, in the thinking of the parliamentary committee, that the lives of poor Malawians who cannot afford a 50 kilogramme bag of fertiliser were being sacrificed on the altar of business interests. It was felt, in the thinking of the parliamentary committee, that those who sought to stop distribution of inputs were steeped in their own sense of self importance, and could not spare a minute to reflect on the implications the decision would have on food security in the country.
For once, we felt we had a Parliament that could stand for what was in the best interests of Malawians. For once, we felt like Parliament, which has sometimes been accused of blowing millions of taxpayers’ money on unimportant activities, was representing the interests of Malawians.
However, the roof has come falling down on an individual, Chidanti-Malunga, instead of the institution of Parliament whose interests he was advancing, after he was dragged to court, a development that did not please Members of Parliament, who yesterday brought activities in the august House to a standstill, demanding that there would be no activity if the court case was not withdrawn.
Our take is that Parliament and its committees should be left to do their job. Otherwise, when outsiders interfere in the work of Parliament, people will begin to wonder about where some of these organisations get their power.
The common good should always prevail over personal interests.