Governance expert cautions new MPs on handouts

A facilitator at the ongoing orientation of newly-elected members of Parliament (MPs) says the culture of political handouts will not end any time soon despite a legal provision banning them.

The Political Parties Act bans the giving out of handouts except for campaign materials and transportation to rallies, among others.

Chingaipe: We should not be surprised

Henry Chingaipe was making a presentation at Bingu International Convention Centre on the three functions of Parliament—legislative, representative and oversight.

On parliamentarians  representative role, he faulted the mindset of the electorate on handouts which he said if not addressed would continue.

Chingaipe, a political scientist who specialises on governance and development, said politicians are pushed to a corner where they are forced to give handouts to the electorate as a way of getting votes during elections.

He attributed this to failure of the State to provide services that citizens need.

Said Chingaipe: “I think that we shouldn’t be surprised when we see MPs continue asking for a raise every year because their salaries are hardly enough since they are shared among many people. We need to look at ways through which the State can provide services to the citizens on top of scaling up civic education.”

Karonga Central MP Cornelius Mwalwanda, making his contribution during the presentation, said he wished there was funding that could help the MPs circumvent the practice of dishing handouts from their pockets.

He said: “Culturally, it is becoming difficult to get away from these social things like buying coffins and we really wish there was a fund that could help us move away from that practice.”

His Neno South counterpart Mark Katsonga-Phiri hinted that it is usually difficult for the politicians to avoid giving handouts because the electorate is not well informed on the matter.

“Politicians can’t take up the role of civic educating the electorates for fear of jeopardising their chance to be elected,” he said.

Currently, civil society organisations (CSOs) involved in civic education get their funding from donors in good governance and democracy.

Said Chingaipe: “We need to change the mindset and that requires acquisition of new knowledge where civic education becomes a handy tool for achieving that.”

However, he pointed out that government has already in place National Initiative for Civic Education which needs to be adequately financed for such functions.

“If we don’t do that we will be stuck with this handouts phenomenon,” he said.

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