Politicians in Malawi give money and material things to voters and as days go closer to 2019 elections, that trend looks to continue.
The campaign period will be an exciting time as free things such as party clothes, bicycles and motorbikes will be distributed to people in Malawi in a bid to win their votes.
Around early 2000s when Bakili Muluzi was president of Malawi, cash bribes were a common trend.
The man moved around the country with his K50s when he was campaigning for late Bingu wa Mutharika, his preferred candidate, to take over from him after failing to change the constitution to allow for a third term.
During the 2014 tripartite campaign, politicians were busy distributing material things. The then ruling People’s Party (PP) distributed motorbikes to the youth through President Joyce Banda.
With her slogan “Mphamvu!!” (Power) and people getting to answer “Kwaife” (to us), free cows were distributed as election time got near.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), now the party in power, maintained the culture, free blue bicycles were distributed to people seen to be loyal to the party.
But why distributing things? In Africa more particular in Malawi, that has proved to be formula to win, as people get manipulated with material things because the majority are poor.
Political parties prepare to have strong financial muscle, to give that false impression of ruling the country with material goods to voters.
Factors contributing to the country’s cashgate scandal are among others, ruling parties’ intention to campaign using taxpayers’ money.
But political scientist Wonderful Mkhutche feels the trend affects the quality of leadership as people vote for a person in return to whatever they gave them.
“The assumptions during elections is that people have understood what candidates have to offer. In a democracy, people have to listen to different views and make a choice. But when materials are used for campaign, it compromises people’s independent choices.
“It influences them into voting for candidates who do not deserve the seat. In the end, it affects leadership quality. Quality of leadership is important for development,” said Mkhutche in an interview with Malawi24.
He added by calling for an end to such practice in Malawi if the country is to have people elected based on their quality of leadership.
Mkhutche added further by calling for a legislation that can curb the culture of giving hand-outs to voters in Malawi.
“Parliament must act swiftly to make sure a law is passed to keep candidates from using materials for campaign. This has been happening for a long time. We need a law that clears up this mess,” he added.
Though the culture of getting free things is enjoyed by many in the country, it has duo negative effects, first it compromises leadership quality and fuels corruption since elected politicians strives to recoup what they spent during elections.
No wonder some politicians get poor when they lose as they spend a lot money buying material things to win votes.