US embassy cable - 05LILONGWE343


Identifier: 05LILONGWE343
Wikileaks: View 05LILONGWE343 at
Origin: Embassy Lilongwe
Created: 2005-04-21 10:19:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: PGOV KDEM Parliament
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, KDEM, Parliament 
1.  SUMMARY.  The National Assembly adjourned on 
Wednesday April 13 after meeting for eleven days.  The 
two major issues during the sitting were the National 
Assembly's rejection of President Mutharika's choice for 
head of the Police and a motion to prohibit MPs from 
changing parties. The major moment of agreement was when 
all MPs agreed to increase the amount of funds for the 
Malawi Rural Development Fund (MARDEF) from MK 1 billion 
to MK 5 billion. Most of the issues on the National 
Assembly's agenda were left unaddressed, mainly because 
the GOM lacks a working majority to push its agenda to 
completion.  END SUMMARY. 
2.  The two major issues during the sitting were the 
National Assembly's rejection of President Mutharika's 
choice for head of the national police and a motion to 
amend section 65 of the Constitution. The National 
Assembly rejected President Bingu wa Mutharika's choice 
for Inspector General of Police, Mrs. Mary Nangwale. 
During a roll call vote 88 MPs voted against her 
confirmation, 83 voted for, and 8 abstained. (NOTE: 
Nangwale is the first female head of Police in Malawi 
and was appointed in June 2004; she had been carrying 
out her duties without parliamentary confirmation. 
Shortly after Parliament voted her down, Nangwale 
obtained a court injunction prohibiting her removal from 
office on procedural grounds.  End Note.)  The Nangwale 
confirmation took up so much time that the session had 
to change its adjournment date from Friday April 8 to 
Wednesday April 13, 2005. 
3.  The constitutional amendment sponsored by John 
Tembo, leader of the opposition Malawi Congress Party 
(MCP), would require MPs to vacate their seats in the 
National Assembly upon leaving the party that sponsored 
them into Parliament for a different party or for 
independent status. Independent MPs will also vacate 
their seats upon joining a party in the Assembly. 
4.  The major moment of agreement was a strong vote to 
increase funding for the Malawi Rural Development Fund 
(MARDEF) from MK1 billion to MK5 billion. MARDEF is a 
micro-loan scheme aimed the rural poor; it is to be 
funded by leveraging dormant accounts in the Reserve 
Bank of Malawi. The need for Parliamentary approval of 
the scheme has been a point of contention since the idea 
was introduced last year.  Led by the opposition, MPs 
mandated the Parliamentary Budget and Finance Committee 
to oversee MARDEF's activities to ensure the funds are 
not used for politician gain.  As a practical point, the 
funding mechanism will not extend beyond the originally 
conceived MK 1 billion; GOM officials privately admit 
that the fund is not likely to exceed MK 1 billion even 
after the coming fiscal year. 
5.  COMMENT:  Most of the issues on the National 
Assembly's agenda were not tackled, mainly because 
President Mutharika's supporters lack the working 
majority needed to push the agenda through quickly. The 
bitter debate over the police chief's confirmation cost 
Parliament the time it needed to deal with other issues, 
such as an anti-money laundering bill, a securities 
regulation bill, and an amendment of the penal code. 
6.  While the lack of efficiency in this sitting is 
regrettable, it does show that Parliament is evolving 
into a more active policy-making body.  In its recent 
history, Parliament has been far more compliant, doing 
more or less the president's bidding (with the notable 
exception of extending former President Muluzi's term 
limit).  At this point, the opposition has shown that it 
can stop the government from pushing through its agenda 
and that it can introduce initiatives of its own.  The 
next sitting may show whether the legislature can 
maintain a lively debate and get its work done. 

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