MALAWI CRIMINALIZES HANDOUTS FOR VOTES: WHAT LESSONS DO WE LEARN FROM THIS?
Malawi has become one of the few countries in Africa to pass the Political Parties Act. The law, which came into effect on December 1, 2018, among other crimes bans politicians from using cash payments and other incentives to get support.
However, the ban does not affect campaign materials such as posters, leaflets and clothing, according to AP.
It has been enacted ahead of elections the country will hold in 2019. Malawi is set to hold presidential, parliamentary and council elections on May 21, and it is hoped that the law will level the playing field for politicians.
Anyone found in contravention of the law will be required to pay up to 10m Kwacha ($835,980.60) or spend five years in jail.
The law has been in discussion since 2017. Lawmakers have been debating on whether to enforce a partial or full ban. One faction had proposed banning political handouts during the election period but others wanted a complete ban, whether there are elections or not.
With the exclusion of clothing and non-election period, will this law really level the playing field considering the high level of poverty in the country?
Will it really achieve the intended objectives? Will it really level the playing field for politicians participating in an election?
And what lessons do we draw from this law as Zambia?
As the Green Party, we think that this law will not achieve intended objectives because of high levels of the poverty in the country. Chitenge materials, shirts, and all other various other types of clothing make a huge difference on voters who lack such needs. A party in government will for sure marshal resources from prospective government contractors to ‘dress’ the nation before and during election period and consequently win elections.
As Zambia, when time comes to enact the Political Parties Bill, we need to totally ban clothing before and during elections because of high level of poverty in the nation. Our view is that campaign materials should only be restricted to distribution of posters, leaflets and bill boards.
Peter Chazya Sinkamba
The Green Party
4 December, 2018.