Some Members of Parliament (MPs) Tuesday came out guns blazing and demanding that a contempt of court charge on the august House’s Agriculture Committee Chairperson, Joseph Chidanti-Malunga, should be withdrawn.
Transglobe Produce Exports Limited, a company whose official is being prosecuted alongside former minister of Agriculture George Chaponda and businessperson Grace Mhango for its alleged dubious involvement in the procurement of maize from Zambia, has dragged Chidanti- Malunga to court after his committee recommended that the company should not be allowed to participate in public procurements until it is cleared by the courts.
Interestingly, when he opened the 47th Session of Parliament last Friday, President Peter Mutharika praised the Agriculture Committee of Parliament for striving to ensure no one holds poor farmers to ransom by interfering with the Farm Inputs Subsidy Programme (Fisp).
Transglobe Produce Exports Limited had initially obtained a court order restraining relevant authorities from going ahead with the implementation of this growing season’s Fisp after the company was stopped from participating in this year’s programme.
Outspoken Rumphi East parliamentarian, Kamlepo Kalua, started the protest just after the sitting had commenced, and was followed by other MPs, compelling Deputy Speaker Esther Mcheka-Chilenje to suspend deliberations just after less than 20 minutes.
“We cannot continue discussing issues here when one of us is being taken to court for representing a committee. In fact, he was representing the whole House as committee chairperson. It is completely out of order,” Kalua said.
Mcheka-Chilenje’s attempt to convince the lawmakers that the deliberations should continue while the legal team of Parliament was looking into the matter failed miserably.
Taking her turn, Chairperson of the Women Caucus, Jessie Kabwila, argued that it was not on for a company to threaten Parliament by suing the chairperson of a committee.
“The sentiments of [Malunga] were for the whole House. He was not doing that in his own capacity. How are we going to proceed as people’s representatives if there are some people out there who say we cannot speak on issues affecting our country?” Kabwila queried.
Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee, Alekeni Menyani, accused Transglobe Produce Exports Limited of attempting to capture Parliament apparently because the company has money.
“We are saying we, as Parliament, are not going to accept any businessperson to capture us. We will not accept that our duties to represent our people should be compromised by anyone. We will do everything to protect the interests of Malawians,” Menyani said.
Meanwhile, the House Committee resolved that Parliament should be in control of the matter and that, as such, chamber deliberations will continue.