President Peter Mutharika on Monday grabbed unusual applause from his critics following the appointment of new commissioners of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC).
The President appointed an eight-member commission yesterday comprising four men and women.
The new appointments come almost 20 days after the expiry of tenure of office for the previous commissioners except chairperson Maxon Mbendera, whose term expires in October 2016.
Chief Secretary to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) George Mkondiwa said in a statement the appointments of the eight new commissioners are with effect from June 6 2016.
However, out of the nine previous commissioners only United Democratic Front (UDF) nominee Elvey Mtafu has been retained while the rest are new faces.
Other appointees are former Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) board chair Moffat Banda, long-serving former Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) deputy governor Mary Nkosi and Jean Mathanga, who previously served in various boards of statutory corporations, including MBC, National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) and National Youth Council. She also served in the Bingu Silver Grey Foundation and the Callista Mutharika Safe Motherhood Foundation.
Also joining the team are former Livingstonia Synod moderator and current Ekwendeni Mission Hospital principal administrator the Reverend Clifford Baloyi and the Reverend Killion Mgawi, who has served Nkhoma Synod as a minister for 53 years besides being its first general secretary.
Former diplomat Yahaya M’madi and Linda Kunje are other new appointees. This is the first time the commission has embraced a 50-50 proportion, a development that has delighted gender rights activists.
On Monday, opposition political parties and gender and electoral advocates unified to commend Mutharika for living up to what they described as their expectation on the commissioners structure.
“This is a very progressive approach to issues that we have been questioning throughout.
“We also commend political parties for doing a good job in submitting the names to the President because there are times when the President has failed because of the names submitted,” said Emma Kaliya, chairperson of Non-Governmental Organisation-Gender Coordination Network (NGO-GCN).
On his part, chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) Steve Duwa applauded Mutharika for achieving the numbers in terms of gender.
He, however, urged the new commissioners to immediately get down to work and hold the delayed by-elections in Mchinji.
“We also expect them to prioritise and look at the electoral reforms positively so that come 2019 general elections they should be implemented,” he said.
Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) who have Mmadi and Mtafu, and Peoples Party (PP) who have Kunje, have also applauded the President for the appointment.
Said UDF secretary general Kandi Padambo: “It is very commendable considering that the names appointed were submitted by the parties, so we all participated in the process.”
PP publicity secretary Ken Msonda praised Mutharika for a lean team and also for considering women.
However, the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) secretary general Eclain Kudontoni commended the opposition parties and activists for “finally appreciating our President’s objectivity in appointments,” Kudontoni said. n