The consortium of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) and Public Affairs Committee (PAC) has challenged the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to go beyond merely warning the candidates and political parties of stiff punishment for inciting violence and start disqualifying the sponsors of the vice.
Speaking during a news conference held at the Capital Hotel in Lilongwe today, PAC publicity secretary Bishop Gilford Matonga argued that warnings and threats of disqualification have failed to deter contestants from perpetrating violence during the campaign period.
“We commend MEC for warning the candidates against perpetrating violence. But we feel this is not enough. We would like to see MEC disqualifying the candidates who have been found inciting violence and that will send a very strong message to politicians,” said Matonga.
He wondered why the Tonse government, which rose to the presidency on the promise of addressing the vice, chose to remain quiet as political zealots exchanged blows in Karonga Central and Lilongwe North West Constituencies.
On the other hand, the CCJP national coordinator Boniface Chibwana said based on the reports from the PAC and CCJP structures and the bodies’ Long Term Observers (LTOs) in the two constituencies covering the period 17th October to 7th November 2020, the consortium found that threats, intimidation and violence rampant during the whole campaign period.
Chibwana said in Lilongwe North West Constituency, there have been cases of violence during campaigns by different candidates.
“For example, at one point when candidate Bryson Majoni was having his campaign rally candidate Mphatso Jones Boti and his supporters disrupted the rally which ended up with supporters fighting. Three incidents where followers/supporters of the two candidates have physically confronted each other. One incident happened at Mpondamwala during a rally where a traditional leader sanctioned the holding of campaign rallies for Majoni and Boti at one venue on the same day and at the same time.
“Other violent incidents involving supporters of the same candidates occurred at Mtsindo and Kasiya Trading Centres. In Karonga Central there have been more incidents of violence than Lilongwe North West. In Karonga, continued violent acts have been between the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and the UTM Party to the extent that a total of 12 people were injured during the campaign period,” he said.
He also disclosed that in all campaign rallies in the two constituencies, there were no Covid-19 preventive measures followed and adhered to.
This is a potential threat in the context of the pandemic which is still with us. He also lamented that the media has not given much coverage on the by-elections.
“On the positive note, there have been civic and voter education initiatives in the two constituencies by different players like CSOs, Faith Based Organisations (FBOs) and traditional leaders. The civic and voter education was aimed at informing citizens of their rights and civic duty to participate in political and electoral processes and also to provide information about upcoming by-election.
“Effective organisation of MEC in preparing for the by-elections: the electoral management body has demonstrated professionalism in its readiness of the by-elections. MEC adequately and timely provided electoral information; there was effective stakeholder engagement during national electoral consultative engagements and bilateral engagements and MEC’s logistical arrangements regarding supplies and personnel ahead of the polling day have been good,” said Chibwana.
He expressed hope that despite some of the said challenges CCJP and PAC envision free, fair, peaceful, credible and inclusive by-elections.
Chibwana said they expect that all duty bearers and electoral stakeholders will join hands to ensure that peace prevails during and after these by-elections.