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Linda Kunje, Jean Mathanga off Mec ‘payroll’

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Gospel Kazako

Two of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) – sponsored Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) Commissioners Linda Kunje and Jean Mathanga are not getting their honoraria since their appointment in June this year despite continuing working as commissioners.

President Lazarus Chakwera, addressing the Parliament on September 10, said he would not send letters of appointment to the two commissioners because they were found to be incompetent by the Public Appointments Committee of Parliament and the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Government spokesperson and Information Minister Gospel Kazako said the position of the President had not changed.

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“The President already gave direction on how this matter should be handled. He has not said anything to the contrary,” Kazako said.

Kunje confirmed that she had not received her letter of appointment and honorarium since her appointment in June this year.

“Legally we are commissioners. What remains is just an administrative process. We were dully appointed and took oath of office. There is nothing they can do and that’s why they are punishing us by not giving us the benefits.

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“If indeed they are right that we should not be there then the decisions we made on June 23 election are wrong and Malawians should vote again, unfortunately,” she said.

According to the March 2015 revised Conditions of Service, which we have seen, commissioners are entitled has gratuity at the end of the term that shall be at 15 percent of the total earnings of honoraria for the tenure of office.

The conditions of service indicate that Mec commissioners are entitled to K400,000 monthly honoraria. The commissioners also get K10,000 sitting allowances, as well as telephone and internet allowances pegged at K15,000 and $200 (approximately K151,800 according to yesterday’s exchange rate), respectively.

Malawi Law Society President Burton Mhango concurred with Kunje, saying the two are commissioners even in the absence of offer letters.

He said there has not been any constitutional changes to the appointments made by former president Peter Mutharika.

“The two also presided over the June 23 fresh election. Accordingly, their decisions are binding as per sections 75 and 76 of the Constitution. I think the issues of offer letters and benefits cannot override constitutional provisions,” he said.

Dean of the School of Law at University of Malawi’s Chancellor College, Sunduzwayo Madise, said the problem was with the then appointing authority, who failed to facilitate the issuance of the letters immediately after making the appointments.

“The appointments were made. The commissioners took their oath of office. What made him [Mutharika] take long to facilitate the issuance of the letters?” Madise wondered.

The commissioners are entitled to 300 litres of fuel per month, K50,000 hospitality allowance and K400,000 furniture allowance at the beginning of each term of office.

The commissioners are also entitled to group personal accident insurance in case of loss of life, total, partial, temporary and permanent disability, expenses incurred in medical and surgical treatment of such inquiry and coffin and transport for chairperson, commissioners and family members.

Kunje and Mathanga were part of the commissioners who ran the condemned May 21 presidential election.

In its ruling which culminated in nullification of election results on February 3 this year, the High Court sitting as a Constitutional Court in Lilongwe asked the Parliament to look into the competence of the commissioners after it questioned their competency levels.

This was repeated when the matter went to the Supreme Court of Appeal.

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