Of new commissioners at Malawi electoral body: What you see is not what you get!

What you see is not what you get! My honest reaction to the President’s appointment of new Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Commissioners is that it is a slap in the face of Malawians; we might not see credible elections again.Loose cannon

Commissioners of the MEC are supposed to be men and women of high integrity in society, well-educated and obviously independent of anyone, including the sitting Head of State, who unfortunately is the appointing authority in our constitutional set-up.

I personally have a lot of respect for some of the individuals who have been entrusted with the running of future elections in Malawi. I agree with other people’s observation that the President may have scored highly on gender balance where we have four women against four men in place. Bravo, Mr. President.

However, some of the appointees are renowned ‘hardcore’ stalwarts of the governing DPP of President Peter Mutharika. They have not spared any moment to disparage opposition leaders on MBC and other public forums. At least one clergyman who sits on the Commission is a dyed-in-the-wool Mutharika’s personal loyalist.

While there might not be specific set guidelines for the appointment of MEC Commissioners except that the President shall do that in consultation with political parties represented in Parliament, it is ethically imperative for the President to exercise caution when choosing ‘his party’ Commissioners.

This is more so because like in the current scenario, some of ‘his’ Commissioners’ past political conduct would give rise to suspicion of early rigging tactics.

Simply put, because of their previous political conduct, it is very unlikely that such Commissioners would conduct themselves impartially in the discharge of their mandate. Their appointment is therefore morally wrong!

The President and his cohorts will argue that the appointments were done within the demands of the electoral law. The Electoral Commission Act Section 6(1) makes the Commission answerable to and report directly to the President on the overall fulfillment of the functions and powers of the Commission.

Naturally, the ‘DPP’ Commissioners and others, who may choose to, will feel ‘duty-bound’ to reciprocate the President’s ‘good gesture’. That’s where, as a nation, we need to change the way Commissioners are hired.

President Mutharika’s term of office ends in 2019 when the next elections are due. He has indicated that he will seek re-election in 2019 for a possible second term. He is an interested party and, naturally, he will want MEC to have Commissioners that would easily dance to his tune.

The President will not be asked to reverse the new appointments because they were done under the law currently in operation. But it is not too let to set in motion measures that would ensure that the above fears are averted.

MEC is a constitutional body, which is supposed to perform its functions and exercise powers independently of any public office, or any organ of government. Parliament should be called upon to devise oversight strategies to ensure that fears of favouritism and rigging by political parties in positions of advantage are dealt with decisively.

Come 2019, Malawians do not want to once again experience the kind of awful electoral administration they experienced in May 2014.

While it makes much sense to engage political parties in the nomination of MEC Commissioners, it is also important that there are set standards and qualifications for nominees while we, as a nation, strive to improve the country’s electoral system and democracy. The much-talked about electoral reforms, which many sections of the society including our cooperating partners are in support of, should be implemented as a matter of urgency.

In its 2014 Elections Monitoring Report, the Malawi Human Rights Commission noted that although Malawi has an enabling legal environment in place, there is still need for reforms to ensure that all laws governing elections are harmonized.

The Commission recommended that there was “a serious need to have in place one piece of legislation that governs the appointment of MEC Commissioners, the holding of presidential, parliamentary and local government elections. Currently the three elections are each governed by a separate piece of legislation and there are inconsistencies in these laws”.

The Malawi Human Rights Commission also recommended that election laws must also ensure that MEC is insulated from all political interference in the management of elections. If we are seriously in pursuit of serious electoral reforms to preserve our hard-won democracy, we shall not let such recommendations gather dust on book shelves!

Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through chosen representatives…The will of the people shall be the basis of the authorityof government; this will shall be exercised in periodic and genuine elections, which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.” –Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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7 thoughts on “Of new commissioners at Malawi electoral body: What you see is not what you get!”

  1. Real Kyungu says:

    Where are the youths in all these appointments? All you know is kutinyamulitsa zikwanje basi, one day the youths will force you out of power muzaona

  2. Dickson Kashoti -Journalist says:

    I will reserve my congratulations on the appointment of MEC commissioners by our good old professor . I do not have personal grudges against these people but running MEC is different from sitting on other public institutions as board chairpersons or members. I know Mr. Moffat Banda, he is the chairman of MBC. MBC is refusing to change under his chairmanship and it is moving from better to worse, no wonder people are calling it DPP mouth piece. Prior to that position, he was one of mizwanya or mizozodo during the Bingu era, a program he hosted along with Mr Erick Ning’ang’a and the former MP for Thyolo Thava and their duty was to defend mediocrity of Bingu on MBC. I doubt if Malawians can trust him with an election. Then comes Mrs Jean Mathanga, chairperson of a failed Escom which knows how to keep Malawians best in darkness than in light. She is the blue eyed girl of the DPP and Mulhako wa Alhome. Then Mrs Elvy Mtafu, she was there in 2014 when the elections were messy, the worst ever polls in the history of our multiparty democracy elections. Now, Mr Killion Mgawi, I feel he is too old for the job, we have young Malawians who cannot afford dozing in MEC meetings. I wish the above mentioned commissioners would be replaced. For instance, Mr Moffat Banda is at MBC as chair so too Mrs Mathanga at Escom. What is the difference with JZU in one party state when he chaired a dozen state companies and private companies of Kamuzu? DPP has in its file and ranks capable people who can take up these positions. The trust that APM and DPP has in these two individuals smacks of something fishy, yes it smells fish somewhere. I heard Peoples Party spokesperson on MIJ this morning say it is illegal for APM to appoint four DPP sympathisers as MEC commissioners, two from UDF, one from MCP and one from PP. I think the law is silent on the numbers the president can appoint from the opposition and the government and the president has taken advantage of this loophole.

    1. Chifwalure says:

      Hahahahaha some people are not ashamed of revealing what they are. Why are you hiding those other names while not hesitating in mentioning Mathanga and Moffat Banda? Don’t forget that DPP also submitted to the president its own proposed candidates for the position of commissioner. What I don’t understand is that people who are not happy with DPP’s commissioners at MEC are not DPP supporters. Maybe this is the right time to assess the quality of PP and MCP commissioners at MEC. Evaluate them as whether they will help your parties or not. As for us, we are satisfied with our representatives at MEC.

  3. GG says:

    Some wild views on the new MEC: 1. Ms. Jean Mathanga. DPP + MULAKHO
    2. Rev. Clifford Baloyi. DPP + LIVINGSTONIA
    3. Mr. Moffat Banda. DPP (of Mizwanya fame)
    4. Ms. Elvey Mtafu. UDF + MULAKHO
    5. Ms. Mary Nkosi. DPP + MULAKHO
    6. Ms. Linda Kunje. PP + MULAKHO
    7. Mr. Yahaya M’madi. UDF + MUSLIM
    8. Rev. Killion Mgawi. MCP + NKHOMA
    In addition to political party affiliations I still see tribal and familial connections as reasons behind the appointments. Mathanga is a staunch DPP and Mulakho member. Mary Nkosi (nee Masiku) and Linda Kunje are both from influencial Chiradzulu families very close to the seat of power since the democratic dawn. The same can be said about Elvey Mtafu and Yahaya Mmmadi connection to UDF. Rev Mgawi was Kamuzu’s personal friend and very close to MCP’s power. Moffat Banda of MBC’s Pabwalo and Mizwanya fame is another shameless apologist of the late Bingu. The truth of the matter is that apart from gender balance, the newly reconstituted MEC is about who is connected to who in Malawi. It would have been better if the president had also looked at diversity by incorporating other sectors of our society such as academia, business gurus, traditional leaders etc. As for the chair, I can safely prophecize that after Mbendera’s term APM will appoint Mwaungulu as a new Chair.

    1. why did you include someones religion? did you mention that the others are christians?

    2. chilungamo says:

      You clearly avoid the obvious in your argument i.e. that the commissioners were as a result of nominations from the parties. Kunje is obviously MCP and was most likely nominated by the MCP. Ntafu was nominated by the UDF, Mkosi was nominated by PP, Clifford Baloyi was also nominated by the PP. Why are you accusing the President when the people he has included in MEC were nominated by their respective parties. Why did you not condemn the parties that made the nominations? Tribalism in you is written all over. You think you are exposing tribalism in the appointing authority but it is you tribalistic lenses that are coming out loud and clear here.

      1. Flamingo says:

        Thanks Chilungamo, I get pissed off with this man. These people were nominated by their parties not Muhlakho, leave us alone go to Chakwera and tell him he did not nominate a chewa. Thus why you will continually lose!

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