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01 Apr 2005 00:00
President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi was thrown his first curve ball in Parliament last Wednesday since his dramatic defection from the United Democratic Front (UDF), on whose ticket he ascended to the country’s top job in May last year.
His appointment of the first woman inspector-general of police, Mary Nangwale, was rejected by Parliament after the UDF and the largest opposition party — the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) — collaborated to outvote Mutharika’s newly formed Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its allies.
The opposition forces polled 88 votes against the 83 of those who favoured confirmation of Nangwale’s post as required by the country’s Constitution.
Political analysts predict that Mutharika can expect increasing reticence from the main opposition groups, who have sought legal advice on his legitimacy as head of state.
Political commentator Boniface Dulani, of Malawi’s Chancellor College, said: “I think the president has flouted the procedures and should not take Parliament for granted.”
The Malawi Law Society’s Linda Ziyendammanja said: “It is very disappointing that Mrs Nangwale had been rejected because of political jockeying. The president will have to appoint another inspector-general as required by the Constitution.”
Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Uladi Mussa, a Mutharika loyalist, expressed disgust at Malawi’s missed opportunity to take the lead in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). “I do not understand why she was rejected. She is the first woman inspector-general in the history of the country and in the SADC region,” he said.
The opposition MCP secretary general Kate Kainja broke ranks with her party during the vote and resigned from the party in protest.
The rejection of Nangwale has further exacerbated the frosty relationship between the executive and the legislature. The Mail & Guardian has been reliably informed that Mutharika had called an emergency Cabinet meeting to discuss the Nangwale issue, which brought the first parliamentary session since Mutharika’s defection to an abrupt adjournment.
Nangwale has been granted leave and her deputy, Often Thyolan, has been made acting police inspector-general.
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