Malawi News Agency (Lilongwe)

1 April 2014

Malawi: NICE Worried With Silence of Political Aspirants in the North

Karonga — National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) has expressed concern over the silence by most aspiring Members of Parliament and councilors in Northern Region, saying they are not going out into rural areas to fully show up themselves to the electorate.

Regional Civic Education Officer for the North, Enock Chinkhutha, made the remarks at a public debate which NICE, in conjunction with the Evangelical Association of Malawi, organized on Friday in Karonga North West constituency.

Chinkhuntha said many people, especially in the rural areas, complain that they do not know the aspiring candidates who are contesting in their own constituencies, a development he described as worrisome to civic educators like NICE.

"We have observed that there is a big challenge, especially in rural areas where many people are complaining that they do not know some of the shadow councilors and MPs who are contesting in their constituencies and wards.

"Most of the candidates are not going out into the rural areas to show themselves up to the voters. This is a big concern for us as civic educators," Chinkhuntha bemoaned.

The regional civic education officer said as NICE provides civic education to people, the institution expects massive interface between the electorate and aspiring candidates to ensure right choices during voting.

He added that communities look forward to hear manifestos of all the aspiring candidates who are contesting in respective constituencies, hence the need for their frequent availability.

"Communities would want to see that if two people are contesting for the councilor candidacy, then all these two should be able to be seen selling their manifestos," said the regional civic education officer.

However, in a random interview with Mana, most shadow MPs who were present at a Friday debate attributed their silence to lack of resources to start doing their campaign.

Speaking anonymously, one of the candidates said he was waiting for the campaign to reach its climax for him to sell himself in every village.

"Normally, it is our tradition to give handouts to our supporters, however, I cannot manage to start a massive campaign right now because I have limited resources, therefore, I will wait for the campaign to reach its climax in order to sell myself in every area in my constituency," he said.

In his remarks, Programme Officer for Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM) responsible for Chitipa and Karonga districts, Matchona Phiri, said EAM and NICE are conducting debates in all the constituencies in the region to bridge the gap where candidates would sell themselves to voters at almost no cost.

Phiri also felt that debates are the best platform where candidates would make issue -based campaigns.

After the debate, candidates signed a manifesto which was planned by Karonga North West Constituency Area Development Committee to be followed by the winning candidate to enhance development in the constituency.

"At first, politicians were going to people in the communities where they could promise many things that they would not do. So this time around, we have reversed that trend as the political agenda is driven by the communities themselves," said the EAM Programme Officer.

This was the first debate to be conducted in Karonga District. It saw seven aspiring MPs from different political parties converging together.

According to the organizers, similar debates would be conducted in the rest of the constituencies in the district.

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