Members of Parliament (MPs) Tuesday protested against implementation of Section 41 of the Political Parties Act which prohibits political candidates from issuing handouts to potential voters.
But the Malawi Law Society (MLS) has indicated that the MPs’ position is of no use because the law is already in operation.
In his Ministerial Statement, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Titus Mvalo said the culture of handouts has exposed politicians to corruption and capture and that the law stands to correct the situation.
He then called on the legislators to start sensitising their constituents to the law, saying that will help the lawmakers to start managing expectations of the people ahead of the 2025 elections.
But MP for Mangochi South Constituency Lilian Patel said the provision stands to threaten political careers of many.
“When changing laws, let us be sensitive to the realities on the ground. I know the talk about handouts has been around for quite some time and I will tell you that those who thought they would carry out campaign without material incentives didn’t make it to Parliament,” Patel said.
She was supported by lawmaker for Mulanje Bale Constituency Victor Musowa who said Malawian politicians are as poor as their constituents, suggesting it is not wrong for two suffering groups to alleviate each other’s problems.
MP for Chikwawa North Constituency Owen Chomanika argued that the prevailing challenges that perpetuate the culture of handouts cannot be solved by the law.
But Mvalo reiterated that handouts have forced politicians to fall prey to corrupt businesspersons.
“It is important to emphasise, however, that the Act prohibits handouts. The regulations which are being finalised will only clarify the subject matter and provide for complaint handling,” he said.
In an interview Tuesday, MLS president Patrick Mpaka said the absence of regulations has no effect on the validity of the legislation and that the law is in full force.
Mpaka said in the long run, the provisions in the Act, that prohibit the issuance of handouts, will allow only people with substance to remain in politics.
“The law against handouts serves a very useful purpose. If implemented, it would encourage competence not wealth as basis for public service through Parliament.
“It would discourage capturing of MPs by corrupt business operators who capture our public officials ahead of elections. And MPs must lead by example in following the law,” Mpaka said.
Section 41 of the Political Parties Act states that “a candidate or a political party or body or any person contesting or intending to contest in an election under this Act shall not at any time issue a handout”.