US embassy cable - 05LILONGWE555

SPEAKER DIES AS PRESIDENT BLASTS OPPOSITION

Identifier: 05LILONGWE555
Wikileaks: View 05LILONGWE555 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Lilongwe
Created: 2005-06-28 14:42:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: ECON KCOR KDEM PGOV PREL MI Political President 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.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LILONGWE 000555 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
STATE FOR AF/S, INR/AA 
STATE FOR EB/IFD/OMA FRANCES CHISHOLM 
TREASURY FOR INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS/AFRICA/BEN CUSHMAN 
MCC FOR KEVIN SABA 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: ECON, KCOR, KDEM, PGOV, PREL, MI, Political, President, Parliament 
SUBJECT: SPEAKER DIES AS PRESIDENT BLASTS OPPOSITION 
 
REF: A. LILONGWE 00508 B. LILONGWE 00540 
 
1. (U) Summary: The Speaker of Parliament passed away late on 
June 27, after suffering a heart attack on the house floor on 
June 23.  This comes as the President, along with various 
community groups, is blaming the opposition parties for the 
Speaker's condition, as well as Parliament's delay in passing 
the budget.  The President has announced a five-day period of 
national mourning for the Speaker.  There is no indication 
when Parliament will reconvene to discuss next year's budget 
and possible impeachment motions. Further delay in passing 
the budget may put in jeopardy Malawi's hopes for an IMF 
agreement this quarter. End Summary. 
 
 
SPEAKER DIES 
------------ 
 
2. (U) Speaker of Parliament Rodwell Munyenyembe passed away 
on June 27 around 11pm at a Johannesburg hospital.  The 
Speaker had suffered a heart attack and major stroke last 
Thursday on the floor of Parliament, as MPs were debating 
Presidential and Vice-Presidential impeachment procedures. 
The Speaker will be flown back from South Africa on Thursday 
June 30, and will be buried on Saturday July 2.  The 
Government has declared a 5-day period of national mourning. 
 
 
PRESIDENT AND PUBLIC BLAME OPPOSITION 
------------------------------------- 
 
3. (U) President Mutharika blamed the leadership of the 
opposition MCP and UDF parties for the Speaker's collapse, 
and has called for the resignation of opposition MCP leader 
John Tembo.  In a nationally broadcast speech on June 24, the 
President lashed out at former president Muluzi and Tembo, 
saying that the opposition had "degraded Parliament."  He 
angrily condemned the behavior of MPs, saying that "nowhere 
in the world do MPs shout insults at the Speaker." 
 
4. (U) The President concluded his speech with a stern 
warning to those who might foment political unrest. 
Referring to Banda-era security laws still on the books, he 
cautioned the opposition, "I have not exercised the powers 
conferred to me by the laws of Malawi to deal with 
lawlessness, but do not consider this a sign of weakness... I 
work by democracy, but if some elements in the society push 
me to use the powers conferred upon me, I will do so." 
 
5. (U) There has also been a public backlash against the 
opposition, with many community groups calling on MPs to 
focus on the budget and discard any impeachment motions. 
Students, traditional chiefs, clergy, donors, and local 
community groups have all come out in support of the 
President and called for Parliament to reconvene and address 
the budget. On Monday the 27th students marched in support of 
the president in both the South and North of the country, 
carrying signs against the opposition, while religious groups 
planned to march in Lilongwe today. 
 
6. (U) The United Nations Resident Coordinator released a 
statement on June 27 outlining the consequences should 
Parliament not reconvene over the next forty-eight hours to 
address the budget.  The statement made front-page news in 
the local media, and outlined the IMF deadlines that Malawi 
needs to meet in order to sign an agreement this quarter.  If 
Malawi does not pass a budget by "early July", the IMF 
meeting could be pushed back till next quarter.  This would 
be a severe blow to the Malawian economy as a food crisis 
looms on the horizon. 
 
 
COMMENT 
-------- 
 
7. (U) The Speaker's passing is a great loss to Malawian 
politics.  Munyenyembe was an admired figure, and he 
commanded the respect of all sides in the tumultuous 
atmosphere of Malawi's National Assembly.  Munyenyembe had a 
reputation for honesty and fairness, and was a badly needed 
force for moderation during this combative parliamentary 
session. 
 
8. (SBU) In choosing to attack the opposition, President 
Mutharika missed an opportunity to unite the country after 
the Speaker's collapse.  The president could have used that 
moment of crisis to his political advantage to pressure the 
opposition into passing the budget in the name of national 
unity.  Instead, his sharp attack will likely harden the 
attitude of the opposition, making it even more difficult to 
pass the budget.  Despite mounting public protests over the 
opposition's behavior, Mutharika's foes remain defiant.  The 
occasion of the Speaker's funeral on July 2 may provide the 
opportunity for a show of unity, although leaders may not be 
in the mood for compromise. 
 
9. (SBU) Post shares the same concerns that the UN Resident 
Coordinator voiced over a delay in passing the budget.  With 
a public mourning period for the rest of the week, Parliament 
will not come back together until July 4 at the earliest. 
Further debate on the impeachment motion and continued 
wrangling over the budget are likely.  The deadline to pass 
the budget in time for consideration by the IMF will be very 
tight indeed. 
GILMOUR 

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