President Lazarus Chakwera has drafted four new members into the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) replacing the quartet the High Court of Malawi fired on June 2.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) has one of the four new faces in Richard Chapweteka while opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has three, namely Francis Kasaila, Emmanuel Fabiano and Caroline Mfune.
However , the appointments that Secretary to the President and Cabinet ZangaZanga Chikhosi announced in a statement last evening have seen a reduction in the number of women from three to two.
The four join MCP’s other commissioners Anthony Mukumbwa and Olivia Liwewe who were spared when the High Court removed DPP-sponsored Arthur Nathuru, Jean Mathanga, Linda Kunje and Steve Duwa. High Court Judge Chifundo Kachale chairs the commission.
Chikhosi said the new appointments were in compliance with the judgement of the High Court delivered on June 2 2021 in the case of MCP against President of the Republic of Malawi.In the case, the four fired electoral commissioners were cited as interested parties.
Gender activist and NGO Gender Coordination Network chairperson Barbara Banda has described the reduction in women representation as worrisome.
She said: “We applaud the President for acting on time in constituting the commission, but we are concerned that the Gender Equality Act which requires 60-40 representation of either men or women in public appointments is still not being complied with.”
Delivering judgement in the case, High Court Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda described the conduct of former president Peter Mutharika in the appointment of the 2020 cohort of commissioners as full of “impunity”.
He observed that Mutharika, as the appointing authority, deliberately flouted the law by tilting the balance of power in the commission in favour of his party.
According to the law, the DPP and the then opposition MCP were supposed to have equal representation in the commission of three each, but Mutharika appointed four from his party and only two on the MCP ticket, leaving out Chapweteka who has now been considered.
The judge also clarified that the firing of the four commissioners does not in any way affect the decisions they have undertaken during their tenure, including management of the fresh presidential election and several by-elections.
Mutharika appointed the previous cohort of MEC commissioners on June 7 2020 ahead of the court-sanctioned fresh presidential election on June 23.
The election followed the nullification of the May 21 2019 presidential election results on February 3 2020 by a five-judge panel of the High Court of Malawi sitting as the Constitutional Court and the decision was upheld by a seven-judge panel of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal on May 8.
MCP secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka sued the country’s President demanding removal of the four DPP sponsored commissioners.
MEC is scheduled to hold parliamentary and local government by-elections on June 29 while in August it will embark on a boundary redemarcation exercise for wards and constituencies.