Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Chifundo Kachale has said commissioners Linda Kunje and Jean Mathanga will be part of the team that will conduct the March 30 by-elections.
He said this in response to a question from journalists at a press briefing in Blantyre yesterday which MEC held to give an update on the forthcoming by-elections to be conducted in seven constituencies and two wards.
Kachale said the electoral body has not received any formal direction on the status of the two commissioners; hence, they will be part of the team running the by-elections.
Said the MEC chairperson: “The position remains as has always been from the time we were appointed on the June 7 2020, until we get contrary formal directions. We can’t, as MEC, be drawn into the politics of all this situation.
“We are a constitutional body which must continue to function within the parameters of our constitutional mandate.”
Last week, the Public Appointments Committee of Parliament reaffirmed its stand that the two commissioners should be fired for being part of a team of MEC commissioners that was declared incompetent by the Constitutional Court and the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal having administered the annulled May 21 2019 presidential election.
Mathanga told The Nation last week that she and Kunje, who are both in the commission on account of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), were not receiving their honoraria despite continuing to work as MEC Commissioners.
She also said they both had not received their appointment letters since their hiring in June 2020 by former president Peter Mutharika, despite Attorney General (AG) Chikosa Silungwe advising Secretary to the President and Cabinet Zangazanga Chikhosi in August 2020 to give the two their offer letters.
Kachale, who was accompanied by commissioner Steve Duwa, said initially, MEC budgeted K2.5 billion for fresh parliamentary elections in Nsanje Central, Nsanje North and Chikwawa East on March 30 following the High Court’s nullification of the parliamentary elections results for the constituencies, and by-election on April 18, for vacancies that arose due to the deaths of previous holders.
But after consultations with the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 and Centre for Multiparty (CMD), MEC was advised to combine the two calendars and hold the elections together.
The MEC chairperson added that CMD further advised that the commission should approach the court for an extension of the polling date to a day outside the court-ordered 60 days because some services may take time to be available as they are procured outside the country.
Said Kachale: “So we are seeking the engagement of the PPDA [Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority] to consider granting us authority to single source those services so as to implement the calendar of the by-elections before the 30th of March.”
According to Kachale, the official campaign period for the March 30 by-election started on February 15 and will end on March 28 2021 at 6am. There will be no nomination of new candidates in constituencies that fell vacant in line with the court judgment.
The commission is expected to announce the official results on April 1 2021.