Tensions and exchange of bitter words took centrestage at Riverside Hotel in Lilongwe yesterday where the Media Institute for Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi chapter was scheduled to hold an elective assembly.
Journalists from various media houses were expected to vote in new leadership of the body following the expiry of the three-year term of the current team, which is being headed by Thom Khanje.
There were two camps comprising Teresa Ndanga, Cliff Kawanga and Mandy Pondani (TCM), against that of Frank Phiri, Sellina Kainja and Chimwemwe Njoloma (FSC) vying to take over positions. Ndanga, who is Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) head of news, was battling it out with media consultant Phiri on the position of chairperson.
On the other hand, Kainja and Kawanga were scheduled to compete for the position of vice-chairperson while Pondani and Njoloma vied for executive membership.
But that was never to be as the TCM team cried foul, suspecting that some of the voting delegates were not bona fide members.
“There were a lot of concerns that we raised with Misa before the day. We wrote them officially, especially on subscriptions that happened towards the end just a few days before the elections.
“We said we needed to scrutinise who these people are. So, today when we met legal counsel for Misa, we agreed that ordinary members and, according to the interpretation of our constitution, ordinary members had the right to vote,” said Ndanga.
Her camp further demanded that students and freelance journalists be barred from voting unless deliberate processes were undertaken to verify if they were practising journalists as per the dictates of the constitution.
But the FSC camp, too, expressed discomfort with these demands, resulting in exchange of bitter words between the two camps. Peace only returned after Misa-Malawi legal counsel Mandala Mambulasa interpreted the constitution, saying only practising journalists are eligible to vote.
He, therefore, postponed the elections to December this year, to allow for a smooth verification exercise.
Earlier in the day the journalists, held a solidarity march from Sunbird Lilongwe Hotel to Riverside Lodge, where a number of other activities were supposed to follow, but delayed because of the tension over elections.
As we went to press, a gala night and awarding of outstanding journalists was to follow at Bingu International Convention Centre (Bicc).