Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Commissioner Dr. Anthony Mukumbwa has said that the Commission does not have any legal mandate over handouts that contesting candidates in an election give to the electorates.
The Commissioner said this in response to a question Pastor Mwayiwawo Soko posed during the engagement meeting MEC held on Monday with Karonga Northwest Constituency aimed at courting the clergy to civic educate their sheep on the voting process on March 30.
During question time, Soko asked MEC to elaborate the legality of handouts and the role the Commission plays to eradicate the syndrome which he said derails development.
He asked: “Can MEC tell us why handouts are still being given despite the law barring the same”?
In an interview, Soko said he has noted with great concern that within the constituency, there are candidates who are busy preparing tea, food and dishing out various items with aim of inducing voters.
He justified: “Despite the enactment of the Law in 2018 to bar politicians from dishing out handouts, the tendency is refusing to die. This is retrogressive because voters are swayed to vote for a person who cannot deliver, hence the need for MEC to clarify”.
However, Mukumbwa while commending the concern, said it is not within MEC’s legal parameter to control the political parties Act of 2018 whose jurisdiction lies in the hands of the Registrar of Political Parties.
He said: “The issue at hand is genuine. However, as a Commission, we do not have any control of the said Law. We handle cases that fall under the Electoral Law (Presidential and Parliamentary Act and Local Government Act). The reinforcement of the political parties Act of 2018 falls under the Registrar of political parties”.
In an interview, registrar of political parties Chikumbutso Namelo said politicians are taking advantage of the unregulated law which is yet to be gazzeted to persuade voters through handouts.
He said: “My office will soon write the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to engage political parties represented in Parliament on that law before gazetting it. And again, we will source resources to enable us bridge the gap on the part of the electorates through civic education,” he said.
Mukumbwa during the meeting implored the men of God to mobilise the people they lead to go and vote in the forthcoming by-election to avoid voter apathy. He also urged them to pray for peaceful elections and civic educate church members to reduce null and void votes.
In response, Karonga District Pastors’ Fraternal chairperson Bishop Benson Chikapa assured the Commissioner of the clergy’s continued support and prayers to electoral matters to ensure peace and credibility of the by-elections.
MEC has approved eight candidates who will battle it out on March 30 to replace the fallen Karonga Northwest constituency Member of Parliament James Kamwambi who died last month of covid-19. About 51, 000 voters are expected to vote.