UDF asks speaker to sit on govt benches


In a dramatic twist of events in Parliament on Tuesday, UDF made a U-turn to government benches after switching to opposition side in the National Assembly on Monday.

The United Democratic Front (UDF) again wrote Speaker of Parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda, asking that the party’s MPs be reallocated seats on the government benches alongside the People’s Party (PP) colleagues.

But UDF secretary general Kandi Padambo indicated that the move might be temporary as the party’s executive is yet to meet to discuss the way forward on their working relationship with PP.

Said Padambo: “We sat down to review the earlier decision taken by our MPs and decided that we are not supposed to make our decision emotionally. We thought we should be orderly.

“Politics is dynamic and what we are saying is that as of now, our MPs will still sit on the government side, but cannot say that this is permanent. We want to look at the matter and weigh our options.”
UDF MPs on Monday asked the Speaker to relocate them to the opposition benches.

The decision came barely hours after news filtered in that Machinga North East MP and the party’s national chairman Atupele Muluzi had resigned from his position as Minister of Economic Planning and Development.

There was drama in the House when Chimunthu Banda read several letters from the UDF which gave different stands on the party’s side in the House.

First was one from Padambo which rescinded an earlier request from his predecessor, Kennedy Makwangwala, to have the party moved to the opposition.

The Speaker then read another letter from UDF chief whip Clement Chiwaya, written on Monday, which asked him to move the MPs to the opposition.

“And today, just 10 minutes before we went for tea break, I have received another letter from the UDF chief whip communicating that the earlier decision be rescinded,” said Chimunthu Banda.

During the first half of the morning sitting, UDF MPs were conspicuously absent in the House, with several of them holding a meeting in Chiwaya’s office as they were trying to agree on the way forward.
Chiwaya was only seen coming into the House without the rest of his team at about 11.47am. He went straight to join PP on the government side.

In an interview later after the Speaker’s announcement, Chiwaya said: “All I can say at the moment is that I have been told by the party’s chairman and secretary general that we should go back to the government side.”

With the Monday changes, the government side had 81 MPs which included two Alliance for Democracy (Aford) MPs—Khwauli Msiska and Enock Chihana—against the opposition’s 107 in the 193 strong House.

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