Parliament defies court order on NGO Bill deliberation

Parliament has distanced itself from a court order restricting it from deliberating on the proposed Non – Governmental Organizations Amendment Bill.

On Monday, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) obtained an injunction to stop the tabling of the contentious bill saying government drafted it without consultations.

Blantyre West parliamentarian Dr. Peter Kumpalume asked the Speaker of Parliament on Tuesday whether it was in order for the judiciary to stop lawmakers from deliberating on the bill through a court injunction.

“My point was on section 7 of the constitution so my point was to ask the Speaker to clarify whether there is any authority in the country that has got powers to stop parliament from making laws,” Kumpalume told YFM in an interview.

“My opinion is this contravenes separation of powers between the three arms of government.”

In her ruling, First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Esther Mcheka Chilenje directed that Parliament should continue debating on the bill citing that the house cannot be served with an injunction while in session.

“It is my considered view that there is no contention that the court was operating within its powers when granting the order in question, however the provision cited from National Assembly Powers and Privileges Act it is very clear that no such order would be served or persecuted while Parliament is sitting,” Mcheka said.

The proposed amendments to the NGO Act seek to repeal legal functions of the Council for NGOs in Malawi (Congoma) and upgrade the NGO Board into a sole regulatory authority with the power to fine and deregister non-compliant organizations.

Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu said the law reform, which prescribes fines of up to K15 million for non-compliant NGOs, would make NGOs accountable to Malawians.

However the CSOs argue that the proposed legislation creates an authority which will consist of members appointed by a cabinet minister hence giving the minister more power to deal with NGOs.

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