Confusion as Hajat forms parallel Malawi elections watchdog MESN

Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI) executive director Rafiq Hajat has caused confusion for forming a parallel electoral civil society organisation that uses the same acronym as the Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn).

Hajat is calling his organisation Mtendere Election Support Network (Mesn).

According to documents from the new Mesn, the formation has come because the members faced exclusion from Malawi Electoral Support Network. It was registered on 31 December 2012 as a trust and their certificate of incorporation is signed by Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Ralph Kasambara.

Rafiq is the treasurer of the new Mesn while her colleague at IPI, Nandin Patel is the chairperson according to Nation on Sunday of 10 February 2013.

Hajat: New MESN

Hajat: New MESN

Spokesperson of the new Mesn Edward Chaka confirmed the registration of the new Mesn but said the acronym would not bring confusion because the other Mesn does not exist in books; what exists is Electoral Support Network.

The paper quoted programmes coordinator for National Elections Systems Trust (NEST) Unandi Banda faulting Hajat and others for forming a parallel CSO involved in electoral issues when there is already another. He also faulted the group for taking the name Mesn when there is already another with the acronym.

Banda said while Hajat and company have the freedom of association, the usage of the same acronym with the other MESN will bring confusion to the electorate towards the 2014 elections.

“I knew about these developments but I did not see reasons why we should form a new network. If they had concerns they should have forwarded them top the directors of the existing network for solutions. It is sad that we are failing to redress internal differences and yet we claim that we are democrats. We should know that democracy allows dissenting views,” said Banda.

Spokesperson for Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) Steve Duwa said the formation of another body with similar acronym as his institution is geared to bring confusion.

“What we may consider unacceptable is when such a network or networks thus formed after ours adopt an acronym which stands for our network. In the case of the so called Mtendere Electoral Support Network we would really have problem when they start using the acronym MESN because this is the acronym which we the registered members of the Electoral Support Network operating as MESN have been using officially for the past ten years,” said Duwa.

Duwa explained why there is confusion in the use of the word Malawi: “Even if we did not register officially as Malawi Electoral Support Network (MESN), locally, regionally and internationally we are known as MESN. This is the acronym we have been using over the years and all the vast work we have done bears this acronym. There is nothing wrong using this acronym because we already applied to government through the OPC for use of the name Malawi and the matter is still being followed up since government has not come forward to stop us using this acronym. Records are available that we submit all our particulars to OPC upon their request and what remains is for them to officially grant us the permission.”

Malawi Electoral Support Network is represented national wide through the Public Affairs Committee(PAC), Muslim Association of Malawi(MAM), Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, Pan African Civic Educators Network, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation(CHRR) ,Youth Counseling Network, NGO-Gender Coordination Network and Church and Society of the Nkhoma Synod.

The new Mesn will be doing voter and civic education, training of observation monitors, monitoring of voter registration and electoral processes, post electoral audit, parallel voting tally and research and analysis of electoral processes.

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