Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has reprimanded Moses Kuchingale, an aide to Vice-President Saulos Chilima, for wearing the electoral body’s official gear during by-elections held in Mchinji last November.
In an interview yesterday, MEC chairperson Jane Ansah said the electoral body resolved to warn the culprit and not drag him to court because it believes in settling electoral disputes amicably.
She said: “We checked in our laws. We have put in place procedures and the multi party liaison committees and others are encouraged that matters [should] be resolved amicably. We wrote the parties involved DPP [Democratic Progressive Party] and MCP [Malawi Congress Party] and the VP personal assistant was reprimanded for what he did.”
But Ansah, who is a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, wondered why police—who were present during the incident—chose not to take any action as is required.
The determination has, however, not gone down well with the Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) and the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) who have expressed reservations that it was sending a wrong precedent.
In an interview yesterday, Mesn executive director Steve Duwa said there are still critical questions MEC needed to clear to come to a logical conclusion,
He said: “How did materials belonging to a different institution end up in the hands of someone? Where did he get them from? These are some of the questions that MEC ought to have pursued further.
“If the determination is what the law provides then they have a right to go that way, but the only challenge is that this may create a wrong precedent in the near future. Let us hope when a similar incident occurs MEC will also take the same route regardless of where a political party the person is affiliated to.”
On his part, CMD executive director Kizito Tenthani said: “I would like to believe that this matter was properly followed through by both parties and that an amicable settlement was reached. If that was not done, we might be establishing a dangerous precedent.
“One has to reflect on what the situation could have been, had those who were aggrieved lost the election… Elections are emotive.
“If MEC found that a proper solution according to the prevailing context should be to reprimand the concerned, they might have been convinced that it was an honest mistake, and that possibly that did not cause serious damage to the other electoral contestants.”
During the November by-elections, MCP lodged a complaint to MEC after Kuchingale was spotted at Kamwendo polling station wearing the official MEC tag and allegedly fled the scene after a mob tried to descend on him.
Ansah said the official emblem used by Kuchingale was authentic, but is one of the old electoral materials that MEC used in previous elections. She said some of such materials were not retrieved.
The incident raised eye-brows, especially when the VP was leading the DPP campaign team during the Central Region by-elections.
During the elections, MCP candidate Jephter Fackson Mwale won the Mchinji West parliamentary seat, beating three other candidates from DPP, People’s Party (PP) and an independent after amassing 10 647 votes. n