President Peter Mutharika, on Sunday, appointed High Court Judge Dr Chifundo Kachale as the new chairperson of Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) replacing Justice Dr Jane Ansah who resigned recently.
The president also appointed four new commissioners and retained two from the commission that the constitutional court found incompetent.
The new commissioners are Arthur Nanthuru, a private practicing lawyer who once served as Mec commissioner from 1998 to 2006, Malawi Electoral Support Network (MESN) chairperson Steve Duwa, Dr Anthony John Mukumbwa, an internal auditor, corporate governance and fraud examination specialist and Olivia Liwewe, an accomplished women’s rights, gender equality and women empowerment and social development expert.
President Mutharika retained commissioners Dr Jean Mathanga and Linda Kunje.
The new commissioners are expected to start preparing for the fresh presidential election that is expected to held this month.
A statement from Office of President and Cabinet signed by Chief Secretary to the Government Lloyd Muhara dated June 7, 2020 indicated that the appointments are with immediate effect.
“His Excellency the President, Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika in exercise of the powers conferred upon him by Section 75 of the Constitution; as read with Section 4 of the Electoral Commission (Amendment Act of 2018) has appointed new Commissioners of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC),” reads the statement.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Secretary General Eisenhower Mkaka said Dr Mukumbwa and Liwewe were two of the three names that his party presented to Mutharika for appointment. This means that Nanthuru, Duwa, Kunje and Mathanga were named by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
But Mkaka said the new commission was illegal because the president retained two of the commissioners from the commission that was found incompetent by the constitutional court, the Supreme Court and parliament.
He said by retaining the commissioners, the president is undermining both the judiciary and parliament saying the president is failing to appreciate separation of powers.
“He is acting as the court and parliament at the same time. I can say unequivocally that this commission is illegal,” he said.
Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) executive member Reverend Macdonald Sembereka expressed worry over the retention of Kunje and Mathanga.
“The two were part of the commission which the courts of law founded incompetent, so it is worrying to note that the president has chosen to retain them as commissioners,” Sembereka said.
Sembereka also expressed worry that four of the six commissioners are affiliated to the DPP saying there is a need to have proportional representation.
But Chancellor College Dean of the School of Law Dr Sunduzwayo Madise said there was nothing illegal about the retention of the commissioners saying it might have political implications other than legal.
“This is a political issue. It is about the trust. For institutional memory it was good to retain some commissioners,” he said.
Eric Msikiti is a Senior Reporter/News Producer at Times Group. Though relatively young, Eric boasts years of experience in Malawi’s media industry.