By Watipaso Mzungu
The Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) has written the Registrar of Political Parties, demanding disclosure of information on source of financing for major political parties in Malawi.
In the letter to the registrar on Tuesday and signed by CDEDI executive director Sylvester Namiwa, the organization demands that the declaration should be in the form of cash, assets and in kind received as donations within and outside the country.
The organization says it is requesting information on party financing for the period between April 2019 to June 2020.
“This request is in line with Section 37 of the Republican Constitution as read together with the Access to Information Act of 2020. It is important to point out right at the onset that CDEDI is making this request on behalf of all Malawians of goodwill, who have the right to know and get access to such information on how these political parties source their finances, and if at all they comply with the Political Parties’ Act of 2018, Section 31, which reads “A political party shall at least once every year, make available to its members all financial records of the party,” reads part of the letter.
The letter has been copied to the country’s major political parties, namely the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), the United Democratic Front (UDF), the UTM party, the People’s Party (PP) and the Alliance for Democracy (Aford).
Namiwa says they believe disclosure of private funding and donations to political parties will not only enhance transparency and accountability in the use of the funds on the part of the office bearers and administrators of such parties, but also build confidence in the parties’ membership to continue supporting their respective parties financially and/or materially, as part of their participation in the democratization process.
He says CDEDI is concerned with the growing tendency by some individuals who hold the country’s presidency at ransom in order to gain favours as a precondition for their political party sponsorship.
Namiwa adds that this malpractice grew in the immediate past administration of the DPP and has spilt to the incumbent Tonse Alliance government.
“CDEDI is made to believe that all this is happening due to the lack of strict enforcement of the Political Parties’ Act by your office sir/madam, specifically sections 27, subsection 2 of the Act which states: “A political party may, for purposes of financing its activities, appeal for and receive donations from any individual or organization within or outside Malawi, provided that the source of every donation, whether in cash or in kind and whether once or cumulatively, with a monetary value of at least K1, 000,000 from an individual donor and of at least K2, 000,000 from an organisation shall within ninety days of its receipt be declared to the registrar by the political party concerned,” says the letter.
“Sir/madam, Malawians are their own witnesses that the aforementioned political parties put up super campaigns that undoubtedly involved colossal sums of money ahead of both the May 21, 2019 Tripartite Elections, as well as the Court sanctioned June 23, 2020 Fresh Presidential Elections (FPEs), that left Malawians’ lips wagging in disbelief to the notion that Malawi is a poor country where over 50 percent survive on less than a dollar a day. Still on the same, several business people within and outside the country have more than once publicly through the national radio, TVs, and online news outlets, come out, making revelations that they have at one time bankrolled political parties of their choices, without telling Malawians their interest behind their gestures, and neither did they disclose the amounts they donated,” it continues.
Namiwa says very recently, during the previous two sets of by- elections, Malawians saw with their own naked eyes politicians dishing out cash to prospective voters.
In addition, Malawians have noticed a strange way in the running of state affairs, the resemblance of state capture by those that invested their resources towards the campaign for the political parties that eventually won the elections where some undeserving people, in CDEDI view, with questionable character and skills, have found their way into the Cabinet while others got top government positions purportedly as a reward for what they contributed to the party during the campaign period.
“You may wish to know Sir/madam, that given such circumstances, we have had too powerful individuals and untouchables who do not have the interest to serve, let alone deliver, but go into the public service to merely enrich themselves and their cronies. They stop at nothing, but ensuring that they accumulate more for them to spend in the subsequent elections! Thus far, CDEDI and Malawians that mean well for this country, believe that strict adherence to the Political Parties’ Act, is the only sure way of uprooting the deep-rooted corruption in the country, which according to studies, claims over 30 percent of the total national budget,” emphasizes Namiwa further arguing that this is the sole reason Malawi seems to be moving in circles in as far as the fight against corruption is concerned.
He says Malawians have a right to know the sponsors behind the colourful campaigns, and at the same time the interests behind such gestures, and how such actions are reciprocated.
“We at CDEDI would like to believe that all the political parties complied with the law by declaring the sources of such funding, hence our humble request to your office to provide us with such information. Section 27 subsection 5 is also very clear on this as it states: ‘A secretary general of a political party shall be personally held responsible for declaring to the registrar the sources of any donation that requires disclosure under subsection 2’. It is therefore, our belief that you sir/madam, are in custody of all the information we are requesting. CDEDI is therefore, giving your good office seven (7) days to make the requested information available in line with the said constitutional provisions and acts. Lastly, but not the least, CDEDI will not hesitate to commence legal proceedings against your office, should this request be ignored,” thus concludes Namiwa.