On the 50 + system and Martyr’s Day


On the Front page of The Daily Times, Wednesday March 2, 2016 there were four pictures of political leaders whose views on the suggestion to implement 50+ recommendations were summarised.

For starters, during Constitution reviews held within the period 2007 and 2008, it was recommended that a presidential candidate should score more than 50 percent of the votes cast to be declared a winner. In case none of the candidates scored the minimum, the first and second runners up should stand again and let the people choose either of them.

In the year 1924 there arrived in this country one of the most famous commission of inquiries during the colonial era known as the Phelps Stoke Commission on African education in Eastern Africa. It originates in America but included members from Britain and South Afrca.As far as Africans were concerned the most revered member was Dr. James Kwegyir Aggrey from the Gold Coast (Ghana).In its recommendation about what it saw in Nyasaland (Malawi) the commission said “The type of native people are equal to the best in any part of Africa”.


This was said about grandparents or great grandparents of present day Malawians. One wonders whether the current Malawians have inherited inadequate genes from their ancestors and that this explains why they are doing things differently from the people of leading countries of Africa of which they are supposed to be equal.

The 50 + 1 system is not one person’s concoction but outcome of a gathering which included men and women from all walks of society in Malawi. There were representatives of all political parties; there were distinguished lawyers and a professor including the one who is now Malawi’s first citizen.

T h e gathering was definitely a microcosm of the Malawian population. It expressed the wish of the people. In a country of millions, people exert their authority through their representatives. By saying “people are the bosses and they have to decide what future they want for this country he seemed to suggests that the constitutional review was not representative enough. Where there were doubts as to what the majority of people wanted other countries like Zimbabwe, Kenya, Senegal to mention a few had to make sure of the referendum. Nearly nine years have passed since the recommendation was made. Do those in authority really regard the people as the bosses, so why was their decision sought earlier?


One of the spokespersons is quoted as saying the question of rigging should be dealt with first. The two issues do not depend on each other for their solution. Rigging is nowhere authorised in the Constitution of Malawi. What is required is just to set up another committee to inquire if indeed rigging does take place in our electoral system and if so make recommendations to how it can be eradicated. Meanwhile parliament should just go and introduce an act enabling the 50 + 1system to operate during the next Presidential election.

The reason why some people are reluctant about the 50 + 1 system is not a mystery. Those who belong either to the most populous region or ethnic group do not want to lose the privilege of garnering at least 30 percent of the votes and getting one of them declared a winner.

It is the basic tenet of democracy that in an election the candidate who gets an overall majority (not just most) should be declared winner. If 30 percent vote for you and seven percent did not vote for you cannot claim that you have a mandate from the majority of the population. Let us not entrench inequality of opportunity .History is a graveyard of aristocrats.

On and before Martyrs Day once more I had representatives of the media calling at my office or just telephoning me to find out what is the significance of the martyrs day, the caller seemed to be honestly unsure, some of them asked me why students are not taught about the Martyrs Day. I explained that Martyrs Day remind us of those people who suffered through imprisonment or death to bring about the rights and privileges we lacked as a colonial people. Just as our fathers and mothers or grandparents offered themselves to suffer for the good of the future the present generation too should also be willing to make sacrifices for a better Malawi.

As to why the necessary history is not taught, I told the representative of the media that the question would be better addressed to the educational authorities beginning with the Minister of Education. Authoritative books on the history of Malawi have been written and are being sold by our major bookshops.

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