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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33 thoughts on “Debate on electing Malawi president with degree: Electoral reforms”

  1. jp Nyirenda says:

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

  2. KOMWEKO says:

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

  3. evra gama says:

    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.

  4. iga says:

    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.

    By the way, let us not be too hard on the PhD, masters etc. There are also some good ones and Bingu was one of them before poor and money went to his head. Even stats for Malawi are in faviour. We have had 4 Presidents, 3 PhD holders (Pitala, Bingu and Kamuzu) and 1 JCE holder (Bakili). The JC holder was worst and of the 3 PhD holding presidents, only Pitala is a big disappointment. Pitani ku sukulu, mudzakhale president…mwana wanu mudzimuuzanso zimenezo.

  5. vavlov says:

    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.

  6. Howard Kumwenda says:

    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. Education is important in human development. Our claims that professors have failed this country are baseless and unfounded.

    If you look around you will find enough evidence that the educated Dr. H.K. Banda laid important development foundations for this country because he was educated, you will also note that Prof. Bingu’s vision was far beyond most of us. His development contributions to this country within a small space of time can not be under emphasised.

    Besides there is no single company regardless of it’s size that can risk making an uneducated person manager. Even small NGOs are looking for Masters Degree holders to be managers. What about the whole country?

    If we are serious as a nation, let us make PHD and the above proposed qulifications the minimum requirement.

  7. Chilungamo Chimawawa says:


  8. Chilungamo Chimawawa says:

    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

  9. Chilungamo Chimawawa says:

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

  10. tozer tsono says:

    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. The point here being that, if you lay down a sound foundation, something concrete will result as citizens interact. Otherwise those that have an upper hand will rape, rob, and marginalize the weak. Today, the whole country is suffering because of the actions of the select few who could not be held to an ethical standard. Propose, that if money is swindled by a sitting government, the party will forfeit the right to stage a candidate in elections until the stolen money is recovered. No one is challenging the political parties, and as a result the same plunder is going on day and night unchecked. The party must be made to feel the pain by being excluded from elections. That is what the commission should propose.

  11. Malongo says:

    I believe leaders are born and made, in this regard I don’t see the necessity of a university degree as a basis for one to contest as president of this republic. We have perennial cases of university closure for both Unima and Mzuni as a result of failed leadership of Phd holders and Professors. Lets concentrate on 50 1 for one to win an election and become a president. That said education is very important!

  12. CHINGALE says:



  13. Maizegate says:


  14. Panganani says:

    There is ample empirical evidence throughout the world that education is key for development. Whilst education itself does not make people good leaders, it must be appreciated that it makes them quickly understand issues and determine what to do. Just to disagree with Mr Kenani, what Kagame has done is drawn upon experts all over the world including Rwandese that have the knowledge in helping him craft the developmental path for the country. His major asset is to demand honesty without sugar coating. It is through collective decision making based on facts that has propelled Rwanda to where it is today.

    In the case of Malawi, our people would rather have thieves for heads of state that have no clue of what it takes un a country. Malawi is in the status it is today because we initially elected a thief who had not gone to school. He began to run three Ministries of Finance-One in State House, another in OPC he small one in MOF. It by setting up this bizzare system that has led to be where it is today. As a country, if we don’t elect an astute educated President who will take tough decisions to sort out our PFM systems, even with the best economists from heaven, Malawi will not go anywhere. Unfortunately, we have a President, educated a may be who is arrogant supported by a team of very impervious Cabinet that will not seek help.

  15. The Analyst says:

    While a majority of those with first degrees or more, will either support the idea or remain neutral, a majority of those with no first degrees will angrily oppose this idea.
    . . . But if people looked at this proposal from a neutral perspective (regardless of what paper they have/don’t have), they would quickly realise that education helps broaden a person’s understanding of issues. And thus makes them (the learned) more likely to have a large set of orderly and systematic problem-solving options.
    . . . Since leadership is all about solving problems, a certain level of education is an important ingredient therein.
    One wonders, however, as to why some people, notwithstanding their education completeness; are just as clueless on issues as any pedestrian. Nanga . . .
    . . . Is there anything law-professorial about APM in the manner he upheld the suspension of anti-gay laws? Defied court order and sent Chaponda to German on official duties? Looks clueless on the TZ-MW lake dispute? Among others?
    . . . Nanga, is there anything indicative of a Doctor of Philosophy in Chaponda’s remarks on maize-gate? North-South antagonism? “Why only me and not Goodall also”? “Why not the treasonous guys and tracto-gates also”?
    One thing is very clear:
    . . . Either one does not need education or one needs more than education to be an effective leader. You see, although education helps broaden people’s understanding of issues/possible solutions to problems, it does not force people to choose a certain course of action.
    . . . As such education is only a necessary but not sufficient condition for effective leadership.
    . . . Since its just one of the many necessary attributes, then it (alone) cant be a determining factor for presidency. This, notwithstanding, it may not be a bad idea if a certain level of higher qualification (however defined), is roped in as one of conditions for presidency.
    . . . Nanga, is it not paradoxical that private companies need certain level of education as a minimum requirement, whereas the presidency, important as it is; needs almost nothing?

  16. igama lami says:

    The same reasoning used in deciding that MPs should have minimum of MSCE is the same being applied for President – why did we not say as long as you can converse in the Queens language then you can be elected MP – Lucius Banda was thrown out of Parliament for lacking MSCE and yet he is one the most eloquent MPs- why? Standards. For me I agree that a degree should be minimum. Leadership and development are based on principles and frameworks – not trial and error and we need Presidents who have a grasp of these. The reasons we have PhD holding presidents ruling badly is partly because of politicking- a PhD holder anywhere is bound to have minimum knowledge leadership and development principles. As President, you cannot always rely on advisors- you got to have your own direction (as lead) based on your knowledge and experience. Of course, there will also be exceptions, but they are not many.

    So for me, bring on the degree and if you want to be president of this country, then go (back) to school. Let us sort out the bad politics in this country and let degree holders ascend to the Presidency.

  17. Yahya Jammeh says:

    To have a degree university in Malawi from time immemorial has been a privilege based on the available opportunities at the time. They say life is a struggle although some people have not gone to college due to lack of favourable conditions they, on their own, strive to get themselves to a higher level surmounting all odds. When you think of the people who are struggling to improve themselves, it will be unreasonable to put a degree as a yardstick for qualification of presidency because what it means is that those that will have the opportunity to get to university will be made rulers and the rest subjects. This, in my view, is tantamount to discrimination because education in Malawi is not free, it is for the privileged few and inadequate number of universities is another restrictive factor. Much as education is good, but the ability to do something or excel in life is not about having just education, let alone a degree, but rather initiative, zeal, and determination, otherwise we shall only see children from well to do families to be the ruling class while the poor will be subjects and remain poor forever. Is this what Malawi needs? What if one day Malawi has a President from a humble background like the vulnerable people – to be precise people with disabilities. Malawi is for us all Malawians and everybody has the right to become President without discriminatory elements. I will rule Gambia for a billion years.

  18. Ajawa says:

    This should not even be up for debate. Malawi has fared bad with learned presidents; BUT at it’s worst under Bakili. It is what it is

  19. Matandani says:

    Amatitu school imangochotsa umbuli koma osati uchitsilu. Ma Dr. ambiri muwaone mitu yawo yisigwira ntchito amachita kugunyuzigwa ndiye za degree ndi bodza. Mafumu ambiri sanapite kusukulu but if there is an issue within their subjects you will notice that they use their wisdom to make good judgements and rulings except few who are corrupt.

  20. aabwino says:

    In Malawi the corrupt, thieves, pickpockets, womanizers are the educated. We have failed to build an education system that moulds an individual into a reliable citizen. Our education system is a copy and paste of the European system whose objective is to create a liberal society. We need a society with pillars to follow like the four cornerstones of Kamuzu. Our current president is a professor very educated. Is he better than a local uneducated chief in the village?

  21. Henry Bandawe says:

    Not all that have degrees would make good leaders. However, if you take 40 people with Degrees and 40 people without Degrees, the former would have a much higher number of analytical members than the latter, they would be able to give better solution to problems than the latter etc etc.

    Solomon et al were ruling at a time when the world was a very simple place and they were ruling uneducated people. In US what matters is the amount of money that one has and not general intelligence for you to get recognition. See how the uneducated Trump is messing up things? One thing we should know is that Presidents in Africa/Malawi wield a lot of unchecked power. In US there are institutions and the constitution that limits excesses of power.

    If any fool can be a president, what is the motivation of going to school? I once dealt with a very clever employee who had not gone beyond STD 8. He could solve 8* 4* 12/ 24*6 + 16 – 5 by doing one set of solving the first set of numbers. One who had been to secondary would have easily cancelled out the numbers and use BODMAS.

    If you want the Presidency, go and get a Degree. It takes 4 years only.

  22. wakumudzi says:

    Since most of us do not have the so called degrees, we sincerely beg you to leave us alone with our miseries. You can pack your bags and find some space outside Malawi and form your own country. Muzikalamulilana kumeneko ndi ma degree anu. Ife tiziwa zochita. Kodi amene akusokoneza Malawi, mmesa ndi amene muli ndi ma Degree nomwenu??????? Mapazi anu kwambili! Pitani kaya ku America, muzikayimila kumeneko. Kodi bwanji mumakonda chisokonezo anthu inu?

  23. Izinso says:

    Bakili had no degree but in terms of leadership you can compare with these so called PROFESSOR.

  24. Mwendanato says:


  25. lilongwe kwathu says:


    1. Rosingbom Chibomba says:

      You are missing the point gentleman. Kuphunzira kukunenedwa apa sikulankhula chizungu ayi. Any one can speak english if he has been exposed to it. My house maid doesn’t know how to read or write but she speaks very good english bcoz she spent five years in the UK where her former boss was working at the Malawi Mission. Kuyankhula chizungu sikuphunzira iyayi, let’s not miss the point please.

  26. MASO A GULU says:

    Mukuchedwa ndi zimenezi ???

    Za 50 + 1 vote nanga ??

    36 % leadership si zooona !!

  27. Lulu Kuseka says:

    Then I suggest voters too should have minimum qualifications. If ones worthness for the position is education then let those educated elect each other otherwise the degree means nothing to those who have never gone to xool. Besides, what are we getting from our Professor President?

  28. Hlabezulu Ngonoonda says:

    There is sense in Mr. Leonard Chikadya’s reasoning. Soo to in those of Nandini Patel.

  29. Wawa says:

    you’re talking of Degree Holders when Professor’s are failing to Govern.

  30. KAUDZU Isaac says:

    Maphunziro ndiabwino ndizoona koma sionse amene amati akaphunzira sukulu imawapindulira, ndetikati ma president azikhala ndi degree…… mwina ndikutheka kuti amene azasakhidweo ophunzirao sukulu siinawapindulire. Ndibwino kupereka mpata ngakhale kwamuthu amene ku sukulu sadapite koma ngati tikuziwa kuti athandiza mtundu wa a MALAWI. chingerezi alipo anthu omasulira ambiri akhoza kumamuthandiza………

  31. wika says:


  32. Major pen says:

    Degree ya chani? kufuna kukhomererana? Aliyense ofuna akhoza kukhala president if you continue I will ask pipo to March zachamba eti

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