The Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs says the public has the responsibility to report to relevant authorities any politician suspected of offering handouts to woo voters, which is prohibited in the Political Parties Act.
The ministry’s spokesperson Pilirani Masanjala said in an interview yesterday the office of the Registrar General, which is acting on behalf of the Registrar of Political Parties who is yet to be appointed, has not yet recorded any complaint in that regard.
In its pre-election observation report released early this month, the Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) indicated that the issue of handouts remains a challenge despite a reduction—from 28 to 15—in number of districts that reported the incidents.
The non-compliance by aspiring candidates is happening almost four months after the enforcement of the Political Parties Act (2018) last December, which outlaws handouts.
In the report, Mesn asked the Registrar of Political Parties to ensure that political parties refrain from violating provisions of the Act and to discipline perpetrators accordingly.
But Masanjala said it is difficult for the office to act against anybody without an official complaint.
“The Political Parties Act is like any other law and channels are there for people to follow whenever they feel there is a violation of the law. However, up to now neither the police nor the office of the registrar has recorded any case regarding violation of the Political Parties Act,” he said.
Mesn chairperson Steve Duwa also said the onus was on those aggrieved to report to relevant authorities for possible action.
“The law is clear; if you are aggrieved you have to move the courts. As Mesn, we only observe and make the information known to the public,” he said.
As part of its observation efforts towards the 2019 Tripartite Elections, Mesn is running a long-term observation which will feed into the parallel vote tabulation on elections day.
The Centre for Multiparty Democracy, which championed the enactment of the Political Parties Act, is on record as saying some political parties were skirting around the handouts ban by branding foodstuffs with party insignia before donating to people.
Section 27 (2) of the 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.