By Jordan Simeon-Phiri, MEC Stringer:
The clergy in Karonga Northwest Constituency has suggested to the country’s Pollster, Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to revise the electoral laws and set minimum qualifications for Parliamentary candidates as one way of enhancing development in the country through active participation in respective Councils and in the august house.
Karonga Pastors Fraternal chairperson Bishop Benson Chikapa made the suggestion on Monday at Karonga District NICE Resource Centre during an engagement meeting MEC conducted aimed at courting them help the Commission to mobilise electorates to register and verify their names in the voters’ register from Monday, February22 to March 7.
Chikapa asked MEC Commissioner Dr. Anthony Mukumbwa if it is possible to change the laws so that only people with highest qualifications should be allowed to contest.
He said: “If the country is to develop, we need Parliament which understands and objectively and constructively discuss issues. However, we have noted that some Legislatures either speak very broken English or they cannot communicate in the queen’s language”.
In an interview, Chikapa justified the suggestion, saying the current ‘read and write’ entry point is retrogressive because Parliamentarians have to understand standing orders, Hansard, the budget and other documents even at the Full Council.
“As the clergy, we have a role to play. And one of them is to mobilise voters through various platforms to partake in the elections for the sake of development. That is why MEC decided to engage us and we will do that.
“However, the concerns raised are genuine. We need Parliament that is vibrant, participatory and critique. Parliament that is also able to provide checks and balances because its members understand issues hence the need to have a qualifications benchmark,” Chikapa said.
In response, Dr. Mukumbwa who also chairs the Commission’s Audit Committee said the process of setting minimum qualifications as entry point does not rest in the hands of MEC but Parliament.
He said: “MEC does not formulate laws. We are on the receiving end and if anything let concerned stakeholders lobby Parliament to revisit the existing laws and amend them to reflect what the clergy has suggested. However, we appreciate roles that the clergy play in any election hence the engagement meeting so that they guide their flocks to fully participate in this by-election.
In an interview, a Mzuzu based political commentator George Phiri concurred with the clergy, saying there are a number of developments that have occurred since Malawi embraced democracy that necessitate Parliament to revise the laws to augur well with the current setting.
He said: “Technologically, the world is changing. For example, covid 19 has forced stakeholders to embrace virtual meetings which is a challenge to people whose education is low. And again, some Parliamentarians fail to contribute in the august house because of language. So, yes the proposal is genuine”.