Barely two weeks after Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) asked traditional leaders to be non-partisan during the official campaign period, Senior Chief Mwalweni of Rumphi on Sunday openly campaigned for governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) at a rally in the district.
The conduct is a violation of the Chiefs Code of Conduct during elections and also the Parliamentray and Presidential Elections Act.
Speaking at Mphitapasi Primary School ground where DPP director of elections Ben Phiri and Minister of Transport and Public Works Jappie Mhango held a rally, the chief said DPP has implemented many development projects; hence, it needs to stay in power after the May 21 Tripartite Elections.
MEC chief elections officer Sam Alfandika two weeks ago condemned the conduct of some chiefs who have been endorsing their preferred candidates for the May polls.
MEC chairperson Justice Jane Ansah, speaking during the launch of the campaign period last week, urged chiefs to avoid partisan politics in their work, particularly during the campaign.
But during the rally, Mwalweni was chanting DPP slogans and encouraging the audience to vote for the party’s candidates including Mhango, Phiri and President Peter Mutharika.
He said other parties are promising to bring development, yet the DPP is already developing Malawi; hence, the need to offer it new mandate in the next polls.
Said Mwalweni: “While we were launching the campaign period in Lilongwe on March 19 2019, we were asked that the campaign we should embark on as DPP should be a peaceful one. We have seen what has already been done. Is it time then to argue with people?
“We will simply show development projects DPP has done. You see, while others are just making promises, the DPP is showing what it has done. We need to thank Professor Peter Mutharika for what he has done by voting for him.”
In an interview after the rally, Phiri, while admitting that what the chief had done contravened electoral laws, argued that Mwalweni was justified as he too is entitled to freedom of speech.
He said: “In as far as Malawi laws are concerned, we have freedom of speech. One is not barred from expressing his or her own views. Most of these are not doing it on behalf of their subjects, they are expressing personal rights.”
In an interview, Ansah said parties that feel aggrieved must follow procedures in the code of conduct and report to the Multiparty Liaison Committee (MPLC) which is chaired by district commissioners.
She said: “If it is necessary to come all the away to us, by way of appeal, we will deal with it.”
During the launch of the official campaign period last week, Ansah said MEC had received reports that some traditional leaders are endorsing candidates and creating no-go zones for some candidates.
She said: “This is a very sad development which should be condemned in the strongest terms.
“May I remind all our chiefs that it is an offence under the electoral laws to block anyone from holding a campaign rally basing on political affiliation, religion, race or creed. It is also un-acceptable for chiefs to block their subjects from attending political rallies.”
MEC recently wrote the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to strongly advise all chiefs in the country to desist from being political.
In accordance with Section 58 of the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act, every public officer or entity or authority, that include chiefs, has a duty to give and to be seen to give equal treatment to all political parties and candidates to enable each political party and candidates to conduct campaign freely.
Under Section 115 (b) (iv) of the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act, it is an offence punishable by a fine of K500 000 and imprisonment for two years for any person who denies any political party or candidate equal treatment.