The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has kickstarted a process to hold by-elections in Lilongwe South, a constituency where the process was postponed in October last year due to violence that characterized the campaign process.
TA Masumbankhunda thanked the Commission for heading to their call by resuming the by-elections process.
Speaking during a meeting held at Malingunde on Monday, Commissioner Jean Mathanga said it was in the interest of the Commission to hold by-elections in the area and hailed the chiefs of the area for the persistent interest they showed in pressing the Commission to hold the polls.
The parliamentary elections in Lilongwe South were first postponed because of the death of UTM candidate in the run-up to May 21, 2019 Tripartite Elections.
The Commission later planned to hold the by-elections on November 5, 2019 alongside the Local Government By-elections in Matenje ward, however, the Commission postponed the process in Lilongwe South on October 28, 2019 because of violence and intimidation that did not even spare its own staff.
The postponement of the process saw the chiefs in the area petitioning the Commission to resume the process as soon as possible as they were suffering because development activities could not take place.
Speaking during the meeting, TA Masumbankhunda thanked the Commission for heading to their call expressed in a letter delivered on January 5, 2020 signed by all chiefs from the area by resuming the by-elections process.
"We have struggled here to implement development activities because we don't have an MP. Our colleagues have already benefitted from CDF (Constituency Development Fund) but for us we have just been groaning.
"Am assuring you that we have all agreed in this constituency to ensure that we complete the process successfully. We will not tolerate anyone from here or from other areas to come and cause havoc. If here is anyone else thinking of causing violence, they should not dare it, we will not allow that" he said.
Echoing the chief's warning, Mathanga said the Commission will be stern against perpetrators of violence this time around.
"If you are found to be involved in perpetrating violence the Commission will stop you from participating in electoral processes. If you are a candidate, we will disqualify you and proceed with the process. If you are a voter will not allow you to vote," she warned.
Mathanga added that any political party whose candidate will be disqualified, it will not be given another chance to replace the candidate.
Mathanga appealed to all registered voters to turnout in large numbers and exercise their right to vote so that they have a representative to serve them in Blantyre.
"if you don't go and vote the wrong candidate will be voted into office. Voting is your right and no one should take it away from you. Do not be intimidated by anyone", she said.
Her remarks were in sharp contrast to what the UTM has been telling its supporters to boycott the by-elections. The party even pulled out its candidates who later opted to contest as independents.
In her brief Mathanga said there will not be registration of voters and nomination of new candidates because the process is resuming from where it was stopped last time.
"We know candidates submitted names of monitors for polling. We are urging you to notify the Constituency Returning Officer by Thursday (January 23, 2020) of any changes to the list of monitors you submitted," she said.
The candidates were all given two minutes to give a speech urging their supporters to maintain peace, law and order and refrain from violence.
The candidates all bemoaned the prolonged period the area has stayed without an MP but at the same time hailed MEC for ignoring the calls from some political leaders and civil society organisations that the by-elections should be pended until the outcome of the presidential elections case.
Lilongwe South Constituency has an all men race in which Peter Dimba is standing on the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) ticket, Julius Chombwe Grecian is hoisting the Mbakuwaku Movement for Development (MMD) banner and Frank Namponya Mazizi is holding the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) flag. Patson Kachingwe Mthyoka and Samson Phinifolo are independent candidates.