The Political Science Association of Malawi (PSA) has condemned the escalating cases of political and electoral-related violence being perpetrated by some political party extremists which has led to painful loss of lives, property and permanent injuries on innocent people.
PSA is a Chancellor College-based entity with a diverse membership of academics and professionals in the fields of political science, political philosophy, political and economic governance, public administration, international relations, public law, public policy analysis, human rights and many other disciplines relevant to the study, analysis and understanding of politics.
In a statement issued on Friday and signed by the association president Joseph Chunga and his secretary general Ernest Thindwa, the entity is also expressing concern over the vandalism of equipment belonging to the National Registration Bureau (NRB) and Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) during registration exercises; the burning of vehicles, attacks on opposition leaders, especially in Balaka and the loss of three lives due to the petrol-bombing of UTM office in Lilongwe.
Chunga and Thindwa says these acts are barbaric and have no space in the democratic dispensation.
“We wish to remind contending parties in the fresh presidential elections that political competition is not won by demonstrated capacity to unleash violence against opponents,” reads the statement in part.
Chunga and Thindwa further state that PSA is further extremely disturbed with the selective approach adopted by the Malawi Police Service in responding to political and electoral violence.
They say whilst the Malawi Police Service is exceptionally swift to respond to violence perpetrated by those alleged to be aligned to opposition parties, the same zeal almost invariably remains elusive when called upon to deal with violence occasioned by those deemed to be supporters of the ruling party.
They say this coupled, with the failure of the President and the relevant ministries to condemn political violence directed at either member of the opposition or perceived critics of the regime, reduces the Police and the government machinery as accomplice to these evil acts.
“We warn sternly that recent escalation of political and electoral violence if not decisively tamed can only succeed in fermenting and cementing the grounds for large scale civil strife,” they emphasize.
Chunga and Thindwa propose that, in attempt to curb the escalating political and electoral violence, all the three Presidential candidates should demonstrate the highest ethical standards expected from those aspiring to ascend to the highest office of the land by ensuring that they are not selective in the condemnation of political and electoral violence, preaching peace and tranquility throughout the election period, and more importantly go beyond mere rhetoric but walk their talk.
“We propose that security agencies should indiscriminately enforce the law and ensure that enemies of our shared democracy project are swiftly apprehended and prosecuted irrespective of their political persuasion. We also propose that the Malawi Police Service should update the nation on the status quo into investigations of all reported cases of political and electoral violence prior and post May 2019 elections. While the Police have often been quick to publicly announce that they are investigating political violence, such claimed investigations have tended to die a natural death,” they state.
They have also recommended the operationalizstion of the Police Act of 2010 that establishes the Independent Police Complaints Commission to receive and investigate complaints of police brutality or injury to citizens, the Malawi government is yet to constitute it.
On the misconduct of the State-controlled Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), Chunga and Thindwa say PSA has noted with concern over the broadcaster’s continued unprofessional and biased conduct which runs counter to the tenets of democracy and media freedom.
They observe that MBC has relentlessly paraded biased party apologists to attack the Judiciary and civil society organizations (CSOs) simply for delivering justice and holding MEC (and the President) accountable respectively over the problematic May 2019 elections.
“On 11th May 2020 MBCtv 7pm Chichewa News Bulletin carried a picture containing vulgar language against the State Vice President Dr. Saulos Chilima. While MBC swiftly issued a public apology on the matter following widespread public outrage, the PSA still holds that such actions were deliberate, intentional, and tacitly aimed at pursuing narrow political interests,” argue the political scientists.
They say given the already tense political situation as the country prepares for July 2 fresh Presidential elections, MBC cannot afford to be toxic as such a path threatens national peace and stability.
The association has since condemned the actions by MBC as they are a clear breach of the corporation’s obligations under the Communications Act (2016), which requires them to operate independently and professionally.
“It is our observation that the legal framework governing MBC and MACRA has all the necessary provisions for the operational independence and enhancement of impartiality and enforcement of standards. However, their application and effectiveness are traversed and undermined by political interests and unwritten rules of ‘politically correct’ conduct to serve regime interests which are often misrepresented by MBC as national interests,” Chunga and Thindwa say.
The association recommends that there should be deliberate efforts to strengthen the enforcement of the Laws and policies regulating the operations of MBC.
It further recommends that there should be institutional reforms to insulate MBC from political interference by changing its legal status and organizational form from an ordinary statutory corporation under the purview of a Minister of Government, to a public trust with ultimate accountability to Parliament and the People of Malawi.
“This should be accentuated with reforms in recruitment and editorial practices. MACRA should take up it’s rightful place of being an impartial regulator of the broadcasting industry and exercise lawful oversight over MBC. The Parliamentary Committee responsible for Media should discharge its oversight duty over MACRA and MBC, support institutional and political reforms,” they recommend.
PSA vows that it will continue to closely monitor the governance and political space in order to ensure that the democratic gains the country has registered over the years are safeguarded and enjoyed by all Malawians.
The association concludes by saying it expects that the issues raised herein shall be given the urgent consideration by all relevant actors.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :