Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) has challenged political parties contesting in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections to disclose sources of their funding in accordance with the Political Parties Act.
Speaking in Mzuzu on Friday when Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) launched a voter education campaign, CMD executive director Kizito Tenthani said disclosure of sources of funding by political parties promotes transparency and fights corruption.
He said: “The law does not want parties to benefit from proceeds of crime. Therefore, when you see these colourful campaigns going on, you should always ask their source of financing.”
Further, Tenthani said the law also stops political parties from getting funding from government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), including parastatal organisations.
In his presentation on the new law, Tenthani said political parties and their candidates should also desist from giving handouts to potential voters because the law will soon catch up with them.
“Handouts are cash and materials which are classified as private goods such as sugar and bicycles that can entice voters and compromise their free-will.
“Some people are trying to beat the law by putting their party symbols on the sugar to make it look like a campaign material. That is wrong,” he said.
Tenthani said if found on the wrong side of the law, culprits risk serving five years in jail or paying a fine of up to K10 million.
He also asked traditional leaders to stop barring some political parties from holding meetings in their areas.
Tenthani said the law bars churches and traditional leaders from disclosing condolence contributions from aspirants during funeral ceremonies and church fundraising events.
The new Political Parties Act, which became operational on December 1 2018, among other things, bans giving out of handouts by politicians and calls for disclosure of party financing.
The new law also compels political parties to disclose their funding and donations in excess of K1 million from individuals and those above K2 million from companies.
In an interview on the sideline of the launch, UTM Party director of youth Bon Kalindo said his party is ready to disclose its source of funding.
He also said UTM has advised its candidates against the culture of handouts.
On his part, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) regional chairperson (North) Gracious Mafeni Soko said his party has nothing to hide on financing.
He said: “Whoever would like to know our source of financing, MCP is ready.”
Earlier, United Democratic Front (UDF) spokesperson Ken Ndanga described the new law as a step in the right direction and that his party will follow it to the letter.
Section 27(2) of the Political Parties Act defines handouts as transactions whereby political parties, bodies, candidates or any other person distributes private goods, cash, gifts and other items to a person as an enticement to vote for the political party or the candidate.
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu set December 1 2018 as the date when the ban on handouts and disclosure of funding to political parties came into effect.
Said the minister: “Disclosing sources of funding is a legal requirement, and the parties just have to comply, because at any point the Registrar of Political Parties can enforce the law.”
According to the minister, although there is no Registrar of Political Parties, the Registrar General has powers to enforce the law.
Enforcement of the law has come at a time political parties are canvassing for power in the forthcoming elections.
In a country where most parties do not have paying membership for their affiliation, political parties mention undisclosed “well-wishers” as sources of their funds. In rare cases, some of the parties organise fundraising events such as dinner and dance to mobilise resources.