Non-disclosure of party funders could land SGs in prison

By Chikondi Manjawira
A recently passed law has placed responsivity of disclosing sources of funding to political parties on holders of the position of Secretary General (SG) in political parties.
The Political Parties Act, passed by Parliament in November last year and assented to by President Peter Mutharika last February, says SGs could face huge fines for failure to comply with the provision that makes it mandatory for parties to disclose their funders.
“A General Secretary of a political party shall be personally responsible for declaring to the Registrar the source of any donation ….,” reads section 27, Sub Section 5 of the Act.
Section 27 Sub Section 6 adds: “A secretary General of a political party who – (a) fails to comply… or (b) gives false information in relation to donations received by a political party …. commits an offence and shall, upon conviction, be personally liable to a fine equal to the amount f the funds or values of asserts not declared … and to imprisonment for two years.”
The Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) a grouping of all political parties in Malawi led the process of drafting the law which was eventually adopted by government and tabled in Parliament by the Minister of Justice, Samuel Temebenu.
Last week, the CMD organised an orientation session for journalists in Blantyre on Friday at which the organisation’s Executive Director, Kizito Tenthani explained background to the law as well as going through the new Act section by section.
According to Tenthani, the Act is meant to help political parties in Malawi become more democratic so that they are in a position to be able to positively contribute to the development of the country.
Among other provisions, the Act also says from the time it starts to be used, political parties will only be registered upon satisfying the registrar of political parties that their aims are conformity with the provisions of the republican constitution and that they provide proof that they have at least 100 members in each of the country’s 28 districts.
The Act also makes it illegal for chiefs or anyone to prevent any political party from holding meetings in any part of the country. It also forbids people from belong to more than one political party.
Tenthani told journalists that once the Act starts being used political parties in Malawi will wear legal persona, will be able to acquire and poses asserts and hold bank accounts in party names.
The Political Parties Act, though passed by parliament and assented to by the president, is not yet in use pending appointment of the date when it must come into force by the Minister of Justice.

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