Debate on electing Malawi president with degree: Electoral reforms

Proponents of constitutional renewal on elections law would have to pay attention to some comments being raised by Malawians on social media about the proposal by Special Law Commission on the Review of Electoral Laws to have a presidential candidate with a university degree.

Kamanga (left) Supreme Court Jusdge chairing the Special Law Commission on electoral reforms with Minister of Justice Tembenu

Chairperson of the commission Justice Anthony Kamanga said they settled the minimum academic qualification for future presidents to be a degree from an accredited university.

Justice Kamanga, however, said the electoral reformers will listen to the views of Malawians.

“As a special law commission, we attached great importance to the issue of consultation to ensure public participation,” said Justice Kamanga.

The issue is drawing mixed feeling on social media as Malawians are debating

Education activists Limbani Nsapato pointed that education qualifications do not matter in voter’s decisions for their choice of candidate.

“While I value the proposal from the Law Commission to have a university degree as a minimum qualification for a presidential candidate in Malawi, I have a feeling that based on previous elections, education qualifications do not matter in voter’s decisions for their choice of candidate.

“Another view is that voters normally are not influenced by how well policy change issues are articulated; People look for popularity of a party, presidential candidate, region or tribe….which is unfortunate. I also have a feeling that once in power decisions are made mostly by emotion and not reason. Question, would this provision allow for elitism in our politics?” posted Nsapato on Facebook.

Geneva-based social-economic commentator Stanley Kenani argues that academic qualifications have nothing to do with leadership.

“I know of professors who have proved entirely useless as presidents. In our villages and small towns, I have met Malawians without degrees who astonished me with their intelligence. Please, do not exclude such Malawians from running for president. It should be up to the people to reject the non-degree holder, but we should not put this in our laws,” he posted on his Facebook timeline/

He cited Rwanda as an example where President Paul Kagame did not go beyond secondary school, yet, in terms of developing his country, “he is, in my view, the best leader in Africa.”

Kenani, who is also a celebrated writer, cited great statesmen Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln who had no degrees.

“America, the most complex country to rule, has not put an academic qualification as a minimum. Less than 5% of Malawians have degrees. Isn’t it selfish of us to load over the 95% who do not? How can we declare that none of the 95% is eligible? I have met many masters and PhD holders who seem to know less about the world than some enterprising MSCE holders. Think of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Dell, Richard Branson, Napoleon Dzombe… the list is endless.”

Kenani said it should be up to the voters to reject the non-degree holder, but that should not be legislated.

CEO for Malawi media giant Times Group, Leonard Chikadya said it is a matter of common sense.

“Why do we go to school? We may as well remain uneducated and use our wisdom to lead! I don’t buy that!
This is how we lost it in 1994 [when Malawi elected Bakili Muluzi] and we have never recovered and we may not recover soon. We need a dictator who has gone to school and can use logic and rationality in his leadership style”

Chikadya states that Malawi needs transformation of system of governing, saying the current system is “highly corrupt and outdated” which will not accelerate growth of the country’s economy.

“While I subscribe to the concept of having a President surrounded with an army of advisors, I wonder why a learned President deserves such wasteful resource that offers no value outside Cabinet and Civil service.

“Civil service is no longer the same professional team. To get to PS one has to be a party activist and overtakes those who joined civil service from college! It must be demotivating to my friends in civil service.

Let’s take one institution that is today paying salaries of three extra Ex-CEO of parastatal bodies, in addition to the CEO the institution itself. My point is that it will require someone with critical thinking, a leader with at least a degree to carry out a serious analysis of these economic ills that derail our progress and competitiveness on a world stage! Yes the current processors have let us down but these are examples of bad apples. Being CEO of a country needs someone who has ability and knowledge not just wisdom.”

One Iman Mlozi argued that if candidates should be degree holders then voters should also have qualifications.

Mlozi wrote: “Solomon was a great leader but he had no degree, Muhammad was the great leader but no degree, Jesus was great leader but no degree. Why should we bother with professor to be leaders. I believe presidency is just a title any one can be voted into power. If we want presidential candidate to be holders of degrees then we should also allow only educated citizen having degrees to vote. .”

One of the prominent  private practising lawyers, Tamando Chokotho, weighed in with his views on a comment posted on Facebook: “ If this passes then we will have a debate on what a degree is. Would a chartered accountant, Marketer or such other fail to contest because they hold a professional certificate and that is not necessarily called a degree? Which Universities would be recognized?

“ I doubt that this would ever pass the constitutional rule on non-discrimination. Sounds like it’s targeting an individual and we should avoid laws that target individuals.”

Journalist Peter Makossah currently studying law at Nottingham University posted his views: “ Education is crucial and important to civilization but it has nothing to do with good leadership. We need leaders with wisdom and not those with academic prowess. No university teaches wisdom. “

Academician Greenwell Matchaya argued that if  electoral law  reformers  want to ensure that only capable people become presidents, they need an index of factors in which formal education may be part, “but not everything such that a possibility of having a non degree president is alive.”

He wrote: “ Even if they were to take a cross sectional analysis or a longitudinal analysis of performance of presidents over time and across space and focused on education to understand outcomes of their reigns, they would never find any empirical evidence to support that which they appear to embrace as a truism or axiomatic. They should be more robust that pedestrian, useful legal reform requires a holistic view of the world.”

Matchaya  argued that the question they should be asking is whether there is 100% correlation between education and performance.

“To that extent, you may find that you will have to start prescribing something different—Thus any legal reform predicated on attempting to up performance at presidency must be more encompassing instead of narrowing the net a mere dichotomy between degree and its absence,” he wrote.

Some of the recommendations include  scrapping off  the current first-past-the-post simple majority and adopts a 50 per cent plus one law to ensure that the winner of presidential elections enjoyed majority support.

But President Peter Mutharika’s special adviser on domestic policy Hetherwick Ntaba described the proposal as unrealistic and wasteful.

“There is no way we can attain the legitimacy people are talking about. Let us talk about the costs. In reality, we are already struggling to conduct by-elections,” he said.

Malawi follows the British electoral system which is based on the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system. With FPTP, the one who gets the highest number of votes wins the election.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leader Peter Mutharika was declared the winner of Malawi’s May 20, 2014 presidential election after defeating Joyce Banda when he took 36.4 percent of the votes cast, Lazarus Chakwera of MCP garnered 27.8 percent of the vote and Banda’s 20.2 percent

President Mutharika got votes mainly from the Lomwe belt of southern Malawi while Chakwera polled more votes from the Chewa belt of central region.

Associate professor of political studies at Catholic University Nandini Patel who is in the commission  said  an electoral system reform agenda for Malawi should be based on indicators of democracy, and an assessment of the goals that can be achieved and the dangers that can be avoided.

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jp Nyirenda

Malawi needs ma bomba and ISIS that can be a good reformation


Apa komwe kukupita nkhani ndi kwakuti Atupere Muluzi akhale presidential materal because he does not have a degree.Check!!!! Ine sindingalore

evra gama

amene tilibe ma degree tidzilamulilana tokhatokha, timutengaso bakiri atilamulire. nose amene muli ndi ma degree mukapemphe malo ku mozambique. muzikalamulilana kumeko tikaone ngat simukamenyana kumeneko.

This country is in trouble…the fact that most on this forum suggest one does not need a degree to be President worries me and shows how uninformed we are. In many African countries (Kenya), you need a degree to be MP/Governor and look at were they are (of course other issues count) – you listen to the quality of debate in parliament and you know these are people that are learned. I have heard our Ministers read out a prepared speech (not speak) and it is horrible and yet they are expected to provide policy direction in the Ministry-forget it.… Read more »

Good proposition. However, Malawi has a proliferation of people with fake doctorates, e.g., Kaliati, Aladi Mussa, etc. Similarly there are fake professors. These qualifications need objective and transparent assessment to filter those who are cheating. Furthermore illiterate people should be give down-rated votes, or disqualified to vote because they vote based on tribal affiliation and not on quality of the party, or its leader in terms of policies and commitment to non-regionalistic development.

Howard Kumwenda
I would like to make corrections to the proposal of a bachelors holders as a qualifying age. I would like to propose that the minimum qualification be a PHD, not less than 45 years of age and at least MK30 million kwacha of worth. The fact that we are not educated does not give us a warrant to underate our friends’ efforts. It took great effort for people to attain the level of education they have achieved. Besides, the stress they went through to get to that level of education, has made them capable of handling presidential stress with maturity.… Read more »
Chilungamo Chimawawa


Chilungamo Chimawawa

its true if this is the case then voters shud be atleast those with JCE and above. coz anthu osaphunzira ndiomwe amangovota mwa umbuli komanso saziwa kuti mutsogoleri uyu atha kukhala mbava. for instance mbuli zitha kuvotela Chaponda bwino lomwe coz they cant read newspapers komanso nkhani za chingerezi

Chilungamo Chimawawa

kodi Degree ya Moya yathandiza chani pa Malawi pano? i need answers pliz!!!!!

tozer tsono
The commission ought to explain why the general population with no degrees would be eligible to or have smarts to vote for a degreed candidate. I would have thought the society would have proposed things like rotational presidency by region and then within a region, by district. The commission could also have proposed that it should champion setting up ethical standards or that the law society ought to look into all levels of interaction in Malawi, like Doctor-patient interactions, Professor- student interaction, boss-staff, lawyer-client, teacher-pupil, entrepreneur-villagers, parliamentarian-constituent, etc, and establish standards and procedures that would lay a framework for improvement.… Read more »

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