The Political Parties Act which outlaws handouts and compels political parties to disclose sources of their funding is yet to be put to the test two months after the law was put into force, according to Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD).
CMD executive director Kizito Tenthani, whose organisation championed the enactment of the Act, pointed out in an e-mailed response on Tuesday that the law needs to be tested by reporting the actions to the Registrar of Political Parties (currently the Registrar General).
He spoke strongly against non-compliance of the law which replaced the Political Parties (Registration and Regulation) Act of 1993.
According to CMD findings, some political parties are skirting around the ban by branding foodstuffs with party insignia which they give people to get away with it.
Section 27 (2) of the Act defines handouts as transactions whereby political parties, bodies, candidates or any other person distributes private goods, cash, gifts and other items to a person as an enticement to vote for the political party or the candidate.
Said Tenthani: “Currently the law has a clear definition of what handouts are, and it has a schedule of what does not constitute a handout. In its current form it is clear and can be used, and there could be very serious repercussions.”
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu set December 1 2018 as the date when the ban on handouts and disclosure of funding to political parties came into effect.
According to the Act any candidate or political party involved in giving handouts or a person soliciting a handout are both committing an offence and are liable to a fine of K10 million and a five-year jail term upon conviction.
The law also compels candidates and political parties to disclose with the office of Registrar of Political Parties any donations of at least K1 million from an individual donor and K2 million from an organisation within 90 days of receipt.
Section 6(2) (f) of the Political Parties Act, states that the registrar “shall receive and investigate complaints received under this Act.”
Tembenu and Tenthani concurred in separate interviews on Thursday that in its current form the Act is implementable.
But two months after the Act became effective, and with only three months to the May 21 Tripartite Elections, there is little adherence to the new law by most parties and candidates who are wooing the electorate across the country to vote for them.
For instance, all the major political parties we have spoken to have confirmed that so far they are yet to reveal sources of their financing despite the law clearly stating so.
There is also evidence in form of pictures on social media of parties branding items such as flour as campaign materials contrary to requirements of the legislation.
Said Tembenu: “Disclosing sources of funding is a legal requirement, and the parties just have to comply, because at any point the Registrar of Political Parties can enforce the law.”
According to the minister, although there is no Registrar of Political Parties, the Registrar General has powers to enforce the law.
Representatives of different political parties we spoke to confessed that they are yet to start fulfilling the requirement on divulging their sources of funding.
The parties have also played down the issue of handouts insisting that they will abide by the law.
UTM Party publicity secretary Joseph Chidanti-Malunga said: “UTM will comply with every law of the land not just one on handouts. We will disclose our sources of funding as the law requires at an opportune time.”
On his part, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) publicity secretary the Reverend Maurice Munthali indicated that his party wants issue-based campaigning, adding that currently the party is struggling financially because it is honest in its dealings.
According to Munthali, the party will comply with the law on disclosure of sources of funding eventually.
Ken Ndanga, who is spokesperson for United Democratic Front, described the new law as a step in the right direction and that his party will fulfil all the requirements as stipulated in the Act. n