Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has challenged Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) and the police to arrest politicians behind giving out handouts which illegal and also addressing overcrowded rallies which is against COVID-19 regulations.
In a scathing media statement made available to Nyasa Times, HRDC says they have noted, with dismay, the current tendency by some aspiring candidates and their sponsoring parties going around handing out gifts and money to entice voters in the on-going parliamentary and council by-election campaign.
“There are photos circulating on social media and well as traditional media showing candidates across the country giving out handouts. In this regard, we take note of the fact that the issue of handouts is illegal under Malawi’s Electoral laws,” reads statement signed by HRDC chairperson Gift Trapence.
He added: “This is why we are calling on the Malawi Electoral Commission, under whose jurisdiction, electoral matters fall, and the Malawi Police Service, as enforcers of the law, to take appropriate action in bringing culprits to book and in ensuring that the malpractice to a stop.”
Trapence noted that there is a valid reason why this law was framed and enacted and it creates for grave and worrying concerns when laws are not enforced.
The vocal rights campaigner further noted that candidates continue to draw huge crowds wherever campaign meetings are held which is against government’s COVID-19 regulations as stipulated by law.
“We would like to impress upon the candidates and their sponsoring parties that the law is supreme and until such a time that the regulations on COVID-19 are suspended, the law should be followed to the latter.
“At a time when the country has made tremendous strides in curbing the spread of COVID-19, we cannot take our eyes off the ball,” he said.
He concluded by saying that their demands to MEC, therefore, is to apply the law as they are mandated to by bringing the culprits to book and, above all, making sure that these by-elections are conducted in a manner that respects and upholds the law.
Minister of Health Khumbize Chiponda, who is also co-chairperson of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, said they expected the police to manage the situation by bringing culprits to book.