As Malawians draw closer to the May 20 Tripartite Elections, the role of religious groupings in the provision of civic and voter education (CVE) is critical. That is why when the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) called for applications from religious organisations and faith-based organisations (FBOs) interested to be accredited as CVE providers, many responded. However, the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints (LDS) did not send in its application despite enjoying massive membership in its fold. Our reporter WATIPASO MZUNGU JNR asked the church’s district president Peter Chinyumba on the contribution LDS is making to the preparations for elections in the absence of MEC accreditation.
What role have you been playing in the run-up to the tripartite elections?
We have not been doing much because we are not accredited. So, our messages are usually limited to members of the church.
You were around when MEC was calling for applications from faith groupings to be accredited. Why didn’t you do this?
There are two reasons. First, LDS is not yet a member of the Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) or the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) which is a prerequisite for a faith grouping to get accredited to conduct CVE. We really wished we could participate in the provision of CVE, but we couldn’t force matters.
Does this also mean LDS is not a registered church in Malawi?
No! We are a registered church. However, it has taken us time to register with Christian mother bodies such as MCC and PAC. But we’re currently working on ironing out these issues. I believe that soon we may be registering with these bodies to ensure we also participate in important issues such as elections.
Do you allow your members to contest in political positions?
Very much! In fact, very good examples of LDS members who contested elections are Mitt Romney of the United States of America (USA) and two Cabinet ministers and a deputy minister in Zambia. These ministers are also serving Members of Parliament (MPs). Locally, we had a few members who expressed interest to contest in parliamentary and councilor positions in the Tripartite Elections. However, they all dropped out along the way due to reasons best known to themselves.
Since the dawn of democracy, young people have been used to perpetrate violence and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that some of the youths are your members. Are there measures your church has taken to save youthful members from this malpractice?
Although we’re not registered, LDS has been sensitising its members, including the youth, on the need to exercise restraint, maintain peace and tolerance during the whole electoral period. We also teach our members to love everyone even if that appears to be the most difficult to do. As believers, we are obliged to love everyone, including our enemies.
Unless you don’t love, you cannot perpetrate violence. If you love, you cannot plan evil for your neighbor. We believe this message will contribute to the achievement of a violence-free elections in a country.