In the run up to the 2014 tripartite elections, Malawi’s electoral body has engaged an extra gear by seeking to contract the services of capable communicators to cover the electoral processes so that the general public is able to make informed choices.
The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) quest is to make the elections, though the first tripartite for the country, the best and a model to other countries, and has since tagged that the stringers, to be strategically stationed in the district councils, be able to come up with professional, balanced, equitable stories presented in an impartial manner.
“The stringers are expected to provide reports and interviews to both the public and private media houses on all the electoral processes, write features for print media and produce programmes and documentaries for the broadcast media, giving media coverage to the contesting candidates and parties, provide a monthly media coverage report and give media support to the civic and voter education activities of the electoral body,” writes MEC chief elections officer, Willie Kalonga in a press release sourced by NewsTimeAfrica.
And to make the reporters/stringers meet their expectation, MEC intends to drill the successful candidates with a special focus on accurate, balanced reporting of political events, press conferences, election meetings, rallies and interviewing politicians on their policies and election manifestos.
Commenting on the development, one professor Rashid Maganga said it is a good attempt to reach out to as many people as possible since the established media houses hard as they can try, cannot be everywhere due to many and known factors like human and financial resources.
“Actually the media houses have their own decree and beliefs. It cannot be 100 per cent in line with that of the electoral commission, so to involve independent reporters or stringers is a good step.
“Being independent, reports it is expected that they will be covering all political parties and aspiring candidates including the commission and electoral stakeholders so that people across the country are well informed,” observed professor Maganga.
Maganga, a social and political commentator noted that “time is not on our side” so the all involved in the electoral process should “pull up their socks” to allow voters do the right thing and also curtail null and void votes.
Other than a professional qualification and experience in a busy media house, the Commission has indicated that it requires persons with the ability to report for both electronic and print media in English and Chichewa.
Considering that the country is engrossed with other languages, those fluent in one or more other Malawian languages, MEC say have an added advantage.
English and Chichewa are the two official languages in Malawi, although Chichewa is mostly linked to the country’s central region districts and some parts of the southern region.
In the eastern region ChiYao dominates while in the ‘lower states’ the people love their ChiSena language, but in some parts of the southern region the people correspond fine in ChiLomwe.
And in the northern part of Malawi it is ChiTumbuka, ChiTonga and ChiKyangonde that tops the many languages there, with Islanders at Likoma and Chizumulu boasting of being multilingual as they are able to speak the main languages in Malawi including ChiNyanja and Chikhobwe, also linked to people across the lake in Mozambique.
Malawi parliament last year passed a tripartite elections bill that allows the country to hold presidential, parliamentary and local government elections on a single day.
From December last year to the first week of February, the commission has been on a nationwide consultative tour with only Kasungu municipal council, Mangochi and Luchenza town councils remaining but due to other mix ups in the electoral law.
During the meetings it was learnt that there will be fresh voter’s roll, electronically, and that every eligible voter has to register afresh and in the ward that he will vote for his or her Councillor, and not just in constituency.
It was further noted that there will be no voter transfers; no centers at the army, police, churches or mosques and the meetings also provided a platform for MEC to put to rest fears in some traditional leaders that the ward demarcation had a bearing on their boundaries.
“I wish to emphasize that ward demarcation is purely for the purposes of local government elections and nothing to do with chiefs’ boundaries,” a commissioner clarified elsewhere.
MEC Mission is to conduct free, fair, credible and cost effective elections on a regular basis as required by the Constitution
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