The increase in a number of masters of ceremonies (MCs) for events such as weddings, engagements, and bridal showers has forced some MCs to form an association — Masters of Ceremonies Association of Malawi — to coordinate some of the activities of the members.
However, other MCs who do not belong to the association have cried foul over the methods they claim the association is using to attract membership.
They claim they are intimidating non-members to join the association or risk being stopped from practicing.
Deus Sandram, who is an MC but does not belong to the association, said he does not agree with the methods that the association is using as there is freedom of association, hence forcing anyone to join an association is illegal.
“I was MC at a wedding held at the College of Medicine Sports Complex last year and I was approached by four gentlemen from the association. They asked if I was a member of the association but I told them I was not and I could not be forced to join,” he said.
Sandram said other associations such as the Toastmasters ask people to join voluntarily.
“These people [the association] set charges, so in essence they are forming a cartel which is not in line with the Fair Trading and Competitions Act,” he added.
Steve Maseya also shared his story of how he was threatened by the association members in Ndirande, Blantyre.
“I was approached by five people from the association who asked me why I was working without their accreditation. They told me to come out of the hall to explain to them but I told them I did not have time. Then they told me that the next time they would grab my microphone and drag me off stage,” said Maseya.
He said on another occasion, he was dropped by a wedding committee after they were approached by the members of the association members who convinced the committee not to hire him for he was not accredited.
“What these people are doing is illegal. They have no right to force anyone to join an association. They should find better ways of attracting membership than intimidation,” said Maseya.
He said because of this, some wedding committees are afraid to hire masters of ceremonies that are not members of the association.
Patrick Kabvina, publicity secretary of Southern Region Masters of Ceremonies Association of Malawi (Somacam), denied using force or intimidation to attract membership.
“We do not use threats to force people into joining the association. We have never stopped anyone from practicing because they are not members,” he said.
He, however, confessed that they once agreed to stop non-members from practicing but reversed the decision after realising that everyone has a right to association.
“Only on instances where one is competing with our member, then our association will come in and use any means to make sure business goes to our member. If the non-member is reluctant to leave it to our member, we even confiscate their microphone,” said Kabvina.
Kabvina said the asociation has a taskforce that goes around venues for weddings which are being conducted by members of the association to find out how well they are performing. This taskforce is also responsible for wooing other masters of ceremonies into the association.
But Lewis Kulisewa, director of consumer welfare and education at the Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC), said the Constitution of Malawi provides for freedom of association, hence Malawians are free to choose whether to belong to a trade association or not.
“In this regard, no one, except through an Act of Parliament, has powers to stop others from doing business in Malawi.
“If the MC Association is preventing non-members from doing business, it is committing an offence under the Competition and Fair Trading Act,” said Kulisewa.
He added that CFTC would investigate the matter to establish whether the allegations that have been made against the association are true.
“The CFTC would like to warn all trade associations to desist from engaging in practices that stifle competition,” said Kulisewa.