In Malawi, the leader of the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) says he will not apologize for criticizing President Bingu Wa Mutharika. George Nga Mtafu accused President Mutharika of taking opposition members of Parliament and appointing them to cabinet posts. The president’s office has demanded an apology for what it called an insult to President Mutharika. Presidential Press Secretary Chikumbutso Mtumodzi spoke with Voice of America English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey about the controversy.
“Well, it was set out to draw the attention of Dr. Mtafu and anyone who feels that it’s easy to insult the head of state. Because Section Forty of the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi provides that every person shall have the rights to form to join to participate in the activities of and to recruit for political parties. In the face of this Section Forty of the Constitution of Malawi, we feel that Dr. Mtafu has to apologize because he has been insulting the president without any provocation. He said the president is a poacher flouting the law by stealing members of parliament (MPs) from the opposition parties and making them cabinet ministers…. This is an offense punishable by law.”
Mtafu says he does not owe the president an apology, but Mtumodzi asks, “…Does Dr. Mtafu realize that the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi is [more] supreme than any other law in Malawi? If that is the case, then Section Forty has to prevail in this instance. He is the one who is actually infringing on people’s right.”
Mtafu says his statement was a contribution on the floor of the National Assembly (Parliament). “I’m not apologizing simply because last week on Monday I was continuing my response to the speech made by the president in the house. He did speak against members of Parliament from opposition parties…being siphoned away to the government side. And that is the behavior we don’t want; I called that behavior poaching. And that the government side is poaching members from the opposition and then it’s simply against the Malawian Constitution. I can not apologize because it is a parliamentary privilege for members of Parliament to speak of things like these in the house.”
Mtafu continued: ”Anybody can campaign for his party outside the house. But it has become problem now and is actually in the courts is the fact that in the house you can be recruiting members of Parliament from one party to another one because it is not in the spirit of the Constitution.”
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