Malawi: Political Parties Act Awaits Registrar Appointment

25 April 2019

Government says the Political Parties Act, which bars politicians from giving out handouts during an election, is not effective because a registrar of the office is yet to be appointed.

Ministry of Justice spokesperson Pirirani Masanjala: There is no Registrar of Political Parties,

Spokesperson for the ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Pilirani Masanjala said the law could not be effective because the enforcement mechanism is not there in the absence of the registrar of Political Parties.

"We failed to appoint the registrar last year because of financial problems. We did not have the money for the exercise but we will do so in the new financial year," said Masanjala.

He said the registrar of the Political Parties will have to undergo another round of interviews with parliament's Public Appointments Committee (PAC).

Masanjala said although the registrar general has the powers to act as registrar of Political Parties, the office does not have enough financial resources to combine the two offices.

This comes amid concern that poll candidates continue to give handouts to unsuspecting prospective voters in exchange for votes.

The new Political Parties Act, which became operational on December 1 2018, among other things, bans giving out of handouts by politicians and calls for disclosure of party financing.

The new law also compels political parties to disclose their funding and donations in excess of K1 million from individuals and those above K2 million from companies.

Section 27(2) of the Political Parties Act defines handouts as transactions whereby political parties, bodies, candidates or any other person distributes private goods, cash, gifts and other items to a person as an enticement to vote for the political party or the candidate.

Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu said although there is no Registrar of Political Parties, the Registrar General has powers to enforce the law.

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is accused of getting funding from government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), including parastatal organisations.

In a country where most parties do not have paying membership for their affiliation, political parties mention undisclosed "well-wishers" as sources of their funds. In rare cases, some of the parties organise fundraising events such as dinner and dance to mobilise resources.

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