MISA Malawi would like to inform its membership and the general public that the Deputy Minister of Transport and Public Works Honourable Charles Mchacha has apologised for verbally attacking and intimidating Nation Publications Limited (NPL) journalist Bobby Kabango.
Honourable Mchacha used all sorts of swearwords in a recorded phone conversation with Mr. Kabango who was pursuing a story on how the Deputy Minister allegedly acquired public land in Limbe, Blantyre.
On Tuesday, February 11, 2020, Honourable Mchacha went to NPL offices in Blantyre to apologise for his behaviour. Honourable Mchacha apologised in the presence of MISA Malawi National Governing Council (NGC) member Mandy Pondani, Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) Chair Robert Mkwezalamba and NPL officials.
During the meeting, Mchacha said he respects journalists and appreciates the role the media plays in a democracy.
“It was sad that we failed to understand each other and handle the situation well. So, I am here to apologise to my friend [ Bobby] and the entire Nation management for the words I uttered to Bobby Kabango,” Mchacha said.
Both Mr Kabango and NPL Deputy Chief Executive Officer Alfred Ntonga accepted the apology.
Speaking during the meeting, Pondani appealed to the minister, other ministers and government officials to be exemplary and uphold and respect human rights, including media freedom and freedom of expression.
“You hold senior public positions and your conduct should befit those positions. As journalists we also work to promote public good and we want to feel safe when doing our work. It’s intimidating and scary when senior government officials attack instead of protecting us,” Pondani said.
MISA Malawi wrote Honourable Mchacha demanding a public apology for verbally attacking and intimidating Mr. Kabango.
The Chapter also asked Minister of Information, Honourable Mark Botomani, to disassociate government from Honourable Mchacha’s conduct and assure the nation that Honourable Mchacha’s actions were not a reflection of government policy to threaten and intimidate journalists working to uphold principles of transparency and accountability in a nation whose constitution guarantees media freedom.
Honourable Mchacha’s actions were a violation of media freedom and freedom of expression and could be construed as government attempts to silence journalists in the country.
The appearance of two Malawi Electoral Commissioners (MEC) Commissioners yesterday before the Parliamentary Appointments Committee (PAC) has exposed numerous administrative lapses at the commission in election management.
PAC has summoned the commissioners one by to hear their side of story on how they managed the May 21, 2019 elections to determine whether they are fit to run fresh presidential polls as ordered by the Constitutional Court.
First to undergo the capacity test was Commissioner Bishop Mary Nkosi who among other things admitted that MEC erred to announce election results that had numerous irregularities.
"The Commission was working against the eight days period within which it is mandated by the law to announce results. But it could have been better for MEC to seek court intervention to have enough time to properly address complaints."
However Commissioner, Bishop Nkosi told Parliament that the Commission thought it had performed its duties well until the May 21 Presidential election results were challenged in court.
She disclosed that during the results management process, Commissioners observed that a correction fluid called Tippex was being used to conceal some figures and immediately asked DBO auditors if it was okay to continue using the result sheets.
"The head of DBO auditors said he could not put in writing, to authorize that we should continue using the Tippexed result sheets. He said it was not right and against electoral laws."
Commissioner Bishop Nkosi also told Parliament that she wanted to resign from MEC after observing that the commission was heading in the wrong direction but was advised against the decision by lawyers.
She said the lawyers told her she would complicate things and risked to lose benefits she is entitled to as commissioner.
The visibly composed MEC commissioner said she had hoped that she would be summoned to court to testify during the presidential election case. 'But surprisingly we were not'.
Commissioner, Bishop Nkosi surprised MPs when she disclosed that commissioners signed for the results declaring winner of the presidential election on the morning of President Peter Mutharika's swearing-in.
She has told the Parliament that refusing to sign for the results at that point would not have changed anything as the results had already been made public.
According to commissioner, Bishop Nkosi there was growing mistrust among commissioners alleging that the commission chair Jane Ansah summoned her on allegations that she was leaking information.
The MEC commissioner also disclosed that commissioners were never updated on how results of the May 21 elections were being received and managed but at the end they were given already prepared results to announce the winner of the presidential race.
But appearing before the Parliamentary Appointments Committee in the afternoon, Commissioner Elvey Kalonga Mtafu her understanding of the work of MEC commissioners is that of supervisors.
She therefore said the commission executed its duties well during the May 21, 2019 tripartite elections.
The Commissioner told Parliament that she has not yet finished reading the 500 page Constitutional Court judgment in the Presidential election case but that a summary judgment prepared by a team of lawyers is enough to warrant MEC appeal against the court's decision.
She added, MEC Chairperson Jane Ansah signed for the commission’s appeal.
On the use of tippex during the last election, Commissioner Mtafu admitted the correction fluid was used but expressed ignorance on its source.
However Commissioner Mtafu’s responses did not amuse members who alleged the telling lies. PAC Chairperson Collins Kajawa, warned Commissioner Ntafu against lying on oath to the committee reminding her of the powers of the committee and the consequences of not telling the truth.
The committee also expressed dissatisfaction with the commissioner’s responses during her appearance.
“We are disappointed that the commissioner in her responses demonstrated that she was not prepared to appear before the committee despite that she was informed prior to the meeting what she will be required to respond to prior to the meeting”
PAC continues to meet MEC commissioners today and at the end of this will make its passion on the capacity of the commissioners to handle the forthcoming fresh presidential elections.
In its judgment among other things, the five judge panel constitutional court ordered that Public Appointments Committee of Parliament review the commissioners’ ability to run the election following numerous irregularities observed in their conduct during the May 21, 2019 Tripartite Elections.
Chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission, Dr. Jane Ansah, and her eight other commissioners are expected to appear before the Public Appointment Committee of Parliament on Monday as the committee begins responding to recent orders of the Constitutional Court in the unprecedented ruling of the presidential election case.