Monday, 28 October 2013

Opening address for public debates task force meeting in Zomba

Commissioner Mrs Nancy Tembo, Chairperson Media,
Civic and Voter Education Committee
      Good Morning,
 Welcome to Ku Chawe Inn

Today we are meeting as the task force on preparations for the presidential candidates’ debates and I wish to welcome you all. I understand that this is the third meeting and may I commend you for the ground work that you have already done.

Distinguished members, I have been informed that you have already formed sub-groups on specific tasks which are Coordination, Resource Mobilisation, Stakeholders Engagement, Issue Generation and Debate structure/format, hosting and programming.

I am also informed that NAMISA has done some ground work as well. I wish to encourage you to share with this taskforce and come up with one best product for our mother Malawi.
Distinguished Members, the Commission would like to see all the efforts concentrated and directed towards this initiative be coordinated by this taskforce. 

Distinguished Members, This will be the first time the country will hold presidential debates and wherever the history of this first debate will be recited, your names will be mentioned also. None of us would want our names to be associated with a fiasco of a debate. I, therefore, challenge you, Distinguished Members, to put all your efforts and energies into the organisation of this debate.
Distinguished Members, as a Commission we understand that this is the busiest time in the electoral calendar but I assure you that we shall always be present for the meetings of this task force. I also implore you to do the same, try to avoid situations where you have to delegate down wards your attendance to the task force meetings. In some instances delegation affects implementation of activities because coordination and collaboration can be disjointed if the composition of the team like this one keeps on changing every time there is a meeting.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to say something about why the Commission thought of holding presidential debates. Those of us who have followed previous elections will remember that we used to have candidates debates at parliamentary level. They brought a lot of excitement to candidates and the electorate. We are grateful for our stakeholders that have come in to express interest to conduct debates for parliamentary and local government elections candidates. We would urge as MEC that you ensure there is coordination. There should be a mechanism of ensuring even geographical distribution of the debates. There should not be high concentration in some areas while others are starving. There should be a good mix up of the rural and urban areas especially on the local elections. Temptations can be high to concentrate the debates in the urban and other easy-to reach areas but let us do our best to avert this situation.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Commission expects more excitement for the presidential debates but we have to work for this.  This will be the only forum provided to the electorates to compare policies and views of all presidential candidates on a single platform. This will go a long way in helping them make informed decisions. Therefore, we need to plan and execute the presidential debates in a manner that is attractive.

Distinguished Members, we are lucky that other countries have done it successfully before us and we can learn from them. We should applaud NDI who have already indicated that they might bring an international expert on presidential debates to help us in capacity building. If there are countries holding elections sooner than us, it would be prudent, funds permitting, for some members to go on a study tour just to learn from them.  There also other countries, like Kenya, which have had Presidential debates.  This is an area we can learn from.  We cannot reinvent the wheel but definitely we can modify to suit our context.

With these remarks, Distinguished Members, I have the honour to declare this taskforce meeting opened.

May the Almighty God bless you
Bless our Nation

Thank you very much

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