MEC reminds traditional leaders to report on stakeholders not adhering to code of conduct


By Duncan Mlanjira

In announcing the official launch of the campaign period for the July 2 fresh presidential election, Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) reminds traditional leaders that they have the duty to report to the Multiparty Liaison Committees any candidate, political party or supporters not adhering to the code of conduct for political parties and candidates. 

“The role of traditional leaders in elections needs no emphasis,” said MEC chairperson Justice Jane Ansah SC. 

MEC chairperson Jane Ansah

“Chiefs are parents and all subjects are their children and since they stay with the people and have influence over them, they have a crucial role in ensuring that elections are held in a free and fair environment.”

She added that in recognizing the traditional leaders’ role, MEC — in consultation with the chiefs and various electoral stakeholders — developed a code of conduct for the traditional leaders.

Voting process

“The code of conduct gives benchmarks against which the conduct and involvement of traditional “eaders in elections can be measured. 

“Chiefs are not supposed to take part in active politics, should not create no-go-zones or endorse candidates — they are supposed to be impartial and non-partisan in their work. 

Coronavirus alert

“To that effect, traditional leaders at any level can neither be monitors of political parties nor candidates.”

She reminded the chiefs that they are expected to adhere health, safety and preventative regulations during the official campaign period.

They are also not allowed to receive cash, goods or any material with a view to influence people to vote for a particular candidate or party or to stop people from voting for candidates of their choice. 

Coronavirus alert

“Here, I am referring to receipt of gifts with a view to influence subjects to favour a certain candidate or political party. Such behavior is corruption and punishable by law [and] such matters shall be referred to the relevant authorities like the Anti Corruption Bureau for prosecution.”

Ansah also had words for the Civil Society Organisations (CSO), saying they play a very critical role in the electoral process in the areas of civic and voter education as well as domestic election observation.

Coronavirus alert

She said MEC’s expectation, and indeed that of the larger Malawian public, is that CSOs will scale up the efforts to motivate the voters to turn up in large numbers on the polling day. 

“The Commission further expects them to observe their code of conduct by remaining neutral and apolitical.”

She disclosed that during the campaign period, the District Commissioners will have registers in which to record notifications for campaign meetings and venues which should reflect the legal requirement of first come first serve basis. 

Coronavirus alert

“The Commission would like to increase transparency and, therefore, CSOs should also monitor the utilisation and adherence to this facility. If you find that there is non-conformity please inform the Commission immediately.

“This should also include the adherence to guidelines on prevention of coronavirus.”

She took cognizance of the important role played by the media during elections and implored that they should continue being neutral players.

Malawi Broadcasting Corporation

“The Commission also recognizes the role of the public broadcaster, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation, regarding levelling play field. MBC has promised to provide time slots for messages from all contesting candidates for free.

“The Commission is also urging all private media houses to ensure that they support the campaign process through their unbiased and balanced coverage. 

Coronavirus alert

“The Commission wishes to commend some private media houses for the efforts that they are making in educating voters on elections and candidates.”

She urged all registered voters to keep their voter certificates safe and turnout in large numbers. 

“The truth is that only votes cast count for a candidate to win an election. Facebook and social media patronage do not count. So all registered voters should know that the ultimate goal is to turn up for voting.”

She reminded the public that an election is regulated by the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act which provides the following as electoral offences in relation to campaign:

(i) holding of a public meeting without seeking or notifying the District Commissioner in writing with a copy to the Officer in-charge of the Police.

(ii) preventing the holding, or interrupting the proceedings of a public meeting that has been duly authorised.

(iii) campaigning or causing another person to campaign within forty-eight hours before opening of the poll on the first polling day.

(iv) denying any political party equal treatment with any other political party;

(v) destroying, defacing, tearing or in any manner causing to be totally or partially useless or illegible any campaign material displayed in an authorized place or space or superimposing thereon any other material concealing the earlier material.

(vi) any officer, who is entrusted, by virtue of his office or functions, with displaying or depositing in an authorized place or space any campaign material, fails to display or deposit such campaign material or misplaces, steals, removes or destroys such material;

(vii) using language which is inflammatory, defamatory or insulting or which constitutes incitement to public disorder, insurrection, hate, violence or war.

“These offences are punishable by law and if found guilty the person risks a fine of up to K500,000 and jail term of up to five years,” she warned.