Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu has set December 1 2018 as a commencement date for Political Parties Act, which President Peter Mutharika assented to on January 24 this year.
In a notice of commencement, dated November 1 2018, Tembenu said in exercise of the powers conferred on him by Section 1 of the Political Parties Act 2018, he appoints the December 1 2018 as the date on which the Act shall come into operation.
This brings to an end concerns political players, including Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament, have been raising about delays by the Justice minister to appoint the commencement date.
Some of the major changes the new law will bring once in force on December 1 is the banning of handouts by politicians and disclosure of party financing.
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs spokesperson Pilirani Masanjala said, in an interview yesterday, what it meant was that the Act has the full force of law after the minister by notice in the Gazette appointed a commencement date.
Malawi Law Society (MLS) president Alfred Majamanda said, in an interview yesterday, that as is always the case, the law will not apply retrospectively, as of December 1.
“Although the date of commencement seems far, we are pleased to at least have a date of commencement. We had been looking forward to this,” he said.
The MLS president, however, requested government to give notice of commencement for Access to Information (ATI) Act, arguing it is an important piece of legislation which can facilitate what the nation aspire for as a developing democracy.
Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament chairperson Maxwell Thyolera said the announcement about commencement date of the law was welcome, expressing optimism that political parties would comply with it.
“It is one thing to have a law, and another thing to abide by it. Our interest is to fight corruption; there are people that fund political parties, especially the governing party for selfish reason,” he said.
Among other issues, the new law compels political parties to disclose their funding and donations of K1 million and above from individuals and those above K2 million from companies.
About 28 political parties outside Parliament risk deregistration should they fail to reactivate their registration and fulfil other requirements when this new law comes into force, according to Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) executive director Kizito Tenthani.
Chancellor College political scientist Mustafa Hussein said the problem in Malawi is having many political parties outside Parliament, and most of them inactive, is that people establish them not to serve the interests of Malawians, but for personal gains.
“If parties were based on similar political ideologies, they would have simply combined, unfortunately, most of these parties are personality-based,” he said.
He said the current parties lack accountability, transparency and intra-party democracy, adding that all this leads to mismanagement of resources.
The Political Parties Act is replacing the current Political Parties (Registration and Regulation) Act and addresses challenges faced when regulating the registration, financing and functioning of political parties in the country.
UDF publicity secretary Ken Ndanga said in July that his party was already sensitising its followers on the handouts and other issues, such that it was ready to abide by it.