Malawi ‘Political Parties’ Bill ready: Handouts to be outlawed

A report on the scrutiny of the Political Party Bill which if enacted by Parliament, will compel political parties to disclose their party funding and law handouts is ready, according to Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee.

Thyolera: We have done the scrutiny

Chairman of the committe, Maxwell Cholera has said the report should be presented in the National Assembly this November.

If passed into a law, the Bill will among other things outlaw handouts, deregister political parties that do not win in elections or hold conventions, impose fines on people that belong to more than one political party and also impose fines on political parties that do not declare donations.

Thyolera said during a through scrutiny by the committee on the proposed law, they removed a clause which empowered a Cabinet minister to be the only person to determine what a handout is.

“We have instead proposed that there should be a tripartite union comprising the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Malawi Electoral Commission and the Centre for Multiparty Democracy.

Thyolera said the tripartite arrangement “will check against the abuse of power.”

The  Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD)  championed the development of the draft Political Parties Bill which, if passed and assented into law, it will repeal the 1993 Political Parties (Registration and Regulation) Act (Cap. 2:07) and replace it with a new law which will address the challenges being faced when regulating the registration, financing and functioning of political parties.

According to the Bill, political parties in Malawi shall be founded on principles that are tandem with the Constitution. Such principles, among others, include that every person shall have the right to form a political party and to cease to be a member of a political party, and, again, no person shall be compelled to belong to a political party.

Further, one person shall not be a member of more than one political party; and every member of a political party shall have the right to enjoy the rights and privileges of membership of the party without discrimination.

Additionally,   every political party shall have the right to regulate its own affairs and procedures, including the rights and duties of its members.

British High Commissioner to Malawi, Holly Tett has meanwhile welcomed the proposed law, saying it will help promote tenets of good governance and limit opportunities for corruption.

The Bill provides that political parties are entitled to two forms of political financing. One, State resources and, two, private sources.

On State resources, the Bill provides that a political party which has secured more than one-tenth of the national vote in parliamentary elections shall be entitled to be provided with funds by the State to ensure that, during the life of any Parliament, it has sufficient funds to continue to represent its constituency.

The funds—which are not supposed to be used for personal gain—are supposed to be used in a transparent and accountable manner. Among others, political parties will be required to keep, with a commercial bank in Malawi, a separate bank account into which funds provided to the party shall be deposited.

Further, political parties will be required to keep proper books and records of accounts in relation to the funds, and shall balance its accounts for that year and produce statements of final accounts within six months after the end of each financial year. Not only that, political parties will be required to submit the final accounts to the Registrar who shall forward a copy of the accounts to the Auditor General and the Speaker of the National Assembly.

The Bill also provides that political parties will be able to source funding from private sources—especially from its membership.

It also adds that a registered political party may, for the purposes of financing its activities, appeal for, and receive donations from, any individual or organisation, within or outside Malawi.

Further, it underlines those donations, whether in cash or kind, with a monetary value of at least K1 million from an individual donor and of at least K2 million from an organisation shall, within 30 days of its receipt, be declared to the Registrar by the political party concerned.

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