Former Media Council of Malawi (MCM) board chairperson the Reverend Patrick Semphere, who moderated the country’s first-ever presidential debates in the run-up to the May 20 Tripartite Elections, says the debates should be a permanent feature to consolidate democracy.
Semphere was one of 17 speakers and presenters at an independently organised Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) forum, known as TEDX Lilongwe, which brought together innovators, thinkers and entertainment stars to share “ideas worth sharing” at Crossroads Hotel on Saturday.
He pointed out that by introducing the debates, Malawi embraced a global phenomenon practised in over 60 countries, adding that the debates were more relevant because they avoided personality or ethnic mud-slinging by limiting the participants to issue-based debating.
“[It was just as well, for] extinguishing your opponent’s candle does not make your candle burn any brighter. Or, does it?” asked Semphere to a loud “no” from the audience.
But Semphere said in future debates, it would help reduce the clutter if the presidential candidates were much fewer than the record 13 who were on the presidential ballot paper this year.
Sharing personal reflections on his role as the debates’ moderator, Semphere sent the audience into laughter when he admitted that although his office seemed powerful and that he was virtually untouchable in his decisions, he often developed “butterflies” in his stomach during some awkward and challenging moments.
He said one such moment was when, in the eleventh hour, there was word that three or four of the presidential candidates would not attend the crucial first debate. The other moment was when he inadvertently forgot to introduce United Democratic Front presidential candidate Atupele Muluzi on the podium, he said.
This was the second year in which TEDX Lilongwe—a volunteer-run, non-profit ideas event—brought the internationally recognised TEDX brand to Malawi’s capital. Yesterday, the Lilongwe host exposed the youth to similar top-notch presentations at the same venue.
—Follow @TEDxLilongwe on twitter for updates of future public talks.