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MPs summons HRDC over Mec Commissioner

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Joyce Chitsulo

The Public Appointments Committee (Pac) of Parliament has summoned Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) Chairperson Gift Trapence to appear before its members and provide evidence on the allegations of misconduct the coalition made against Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) Commissioner Richard Chapweteka.

In a letter, which The Daily Times has seen, Pac asks the HRDC Chairperson to appear before the committee on Wednesday this week.

“The Public Appointments Committee invites you to a meeting to be held at Parliament Building on October 27 2021 from 2 o’clock. You are expected to provide the committee [with] evidence of the alleged misconduct by Commissioner Richard Chapweteka which has formed the basis of your submission to the committee,” the letter reads.

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HRDC allegedly told the committee that Chapweteka has been making partisan comments publicly, which it says is contrary to Section 6 of the Electoral Commission Act— which calls for independence of the commission.

The coalition says Chapweteka, who was nominated by the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), has been making public partisan comments on WhatsApp in support of MCP.

The coalition maintains that a commissioner that takes partisan positions in the public sphere is no longer independent and brings Mec’s reputation into disrepute, further indicating that such conduct is in breach of Section 6 of the Electoral Commission Act.

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“While nominations for the positions of Commissioners of the Malawi Electoral Commission are made by political parties, the law of the land provides that, once the nominees take the oath of office as commissioners, they shall discharge their functions and powers under the law independently from any interference from any person or office.

“Even though Commissioner Chapweteka has since taken the oath of office as a Commissioner of the Malawi Electoral Commission, he has blatantly, publicly and repeatedly made statements—through his WhatsApp posts—that are partisan and in support of the Malawi Congress Party,” the letter, dated October 8 2021, reads.

The coalition then called on the Public Appointments Committee to come to the root of the matter.

“If the charge against Commissioner Chapweteka is proven (which in our view you will find proven), your committee should recommend to the President [Lazarus Chakwera] the removal of Commissioner Chapweteka immediately. At any rate, Commissioner Chapweteka’s failure to exercise impartiality also flouts [provisions of] Section 75 (4) of the Constitution,” the epistle adds.

Pac Chairperson Joyce Chitsulo confirmed writing HRDC on the issue, saying they wanted to have a better understanding of HRDC’s claims.

“HRDC just wrote us and, you know, writing is not detailed. So, we want to learn more and then, later, we will summon Commissioner Chapweteka himself so that we can hear him as well,” she said.

In a separate interview, Trapence confirmed receiving the communication from Pac, saying the coalition’s leaders would appear before the committee as requested.

“We are going there at 2 o’clock to give them whatever we have. It will be up to them to decide on the next course of action because we also asked them to investigate the matter further,” he said.

Recently, HRDC asked Public Accounts Committee of Parliament Chairperson Shadreck Namalomba, who is also Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesperson, to resign following the party’s statement in which it warned the Anti-Corruption Bureau to stop bothering former president and DPP leader Peter Mutharika.

Trapence said HRDC wanted public officers to discharge their duties professionally, adding that it was important that there be a distinction between public and political issues.

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