Speaker of Parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda has said unless there is a law that allows him to “ambush Members of Parliament” when effecting Section 65 of the Constitution, which stops legislators from crossing the floor, it will be difficult to apply the law as it leaves its fate in the hands of the judiciary through injunctions.

In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Times, Chimunthu Banda said the current process gives room to parliamentarians to rush to court and get injunctions to stop the Speaker from acting on Section 65.

“Unless the people are suggesting that I ambush the MPs and declare their seats vacant, then they can’t claim that it is my office that is delaying the process,” he said. “What happens is that we have to follow the due process where a notice has to be made in the House which is also in line with natural justice.”

Section 46 of the Parliamentary standing orders reads: “The Speaker in exercise of powers given to him/her under Section 65 of the Constitution shall cause to be given to the member alleged to have crossed the floor a copy of the petition. On receipt of such a copy, a member shall respond within 7 days to the Speaker on the allegations. After expiration of the 7 days, the Speaker shall give a ruling on an appointed date, known to the member or party and the petitioner, on the petition in the Chamber.”

Chimunthu Banda said most of the times it is within this period that MPs rush to court to get injunctions

But the Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) says the Speaker is to blame for the delay in the enforcement of Section 65.

Mesn publicity secretary Steve Duwa said in an interview yesterday although the Speaker is right to say that his hands are tied over the enforcement of Section 65 due to injunctions, there is also a part he played to make the section ineffective.

“Mesn’s argument is purely based on previous actions by the Speaker where he dilly-dallied over the matter as if he was not aware of his powers when it comes to acting on those trespassing (in Parliament). If he had boldly acted on this matter at that time we could not reach this far,” he argued.

Duwa said at some point his lack of determination to deal with the call to apply the section made some people doubt his neutrality as Speaker.

“We are at this point because the Speaker had chosen to ignore calls to act,” he said.

Duwa said the affected MPs should be bold enough to seek new mandates from the electorate through by-elections if the Speaker acts on Section 65.

The Mesn boss said ignoring Section 65 may lead to voter apathy since the electorate may not be sure whether the MPs they vote for will not dump them.

“We are involved in the delivery of civic and voter education and right now some people are asking why they should vote for parties and candidates who will eventually dump them later,” he said.

But Chimunthu Banda insisted since the matter was in court he could not do anything about it.

“If you are stopped by the court you can’t do anything,” he said. “We are awaiting the guidance of the court and when the court makes its final verdict then we will act on the matter.”

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