Director of women in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Patricia Kaliati says giving handouts to the electorate is a winning strategy for most politicians.
Kaliati made the remarks in Mulanje on Wednesday on the sidelines of an elections training workshop organised by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in partnership with the National Democratic Institute (NDI).
Experts and civil society organisations (CSOs) have been calling for an end to the culture of handouts, saying it erodes the value of democracy.
But Kaliati said politicians cannot do without handouts as doing so could kill one’s political career.
“Giving handouts is part of our political career. You can do your research on how many politicians have survived without giving handouts.
“In fact, everybody receives handouts only that what matters is the way those handouts are given.
“Without handouts, your people in the constituency can take you as a useless parliamentarian. Whenever I am at home, I spend almost K100 000 (US$239) in handouts every day,” said Kaliati.
She said some of the people who receive handouts are poor and deserve help.
But Kaliati said there is need to think carefully about how to handle the issue, saying most MPs shun their constituencies after winning elections because of pressure from constituents.
“We should have a broad discussion on the matter and civil society organisations should take a leading role to sensitise communities on the roles of members of Parliament,” she said.
NDI deputy director for civic and voter education Henry Chilobwe said in the long term, handouts are an instrument for disempowerment of the masses.
“A common justification for handouts is that they help to shore up incumbent politicians to retain their elected positions, but in the interest of the development of the country, the tendency is bad,” said Chilobwe.