By Sam Majamanda
A public debate for aspiring Members of Parliament in Phalombe East constituency on Friday saw only one candidate showing up as the rest shunned it.
The debate organized by the Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi in conjunction with the National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) Trust was meant to provide a platform for contenders in the election to meet the general public and sale their manifestos.
Speaking with Malawi News Agency, District Civic Education Officer for Phalombe, James Chimpeni said the development was worrisome considering closeness of the elections.
“Much as we understand that every aspirant is busy campaigning, but we thought the debate was also a very good platform for them to convert prospective voters from other parties who would be present,” said Chimpeni.
He further indicated that apart from losing the opportunity to meet a variety of voters, the aspiring candidates conducted themselves in a way that trumped upon the diversity aspect of democracy which would be fulfilled by the debate.
One of the aspirants who is also former Member of Parliament for the area, Dr. Amos Mailosi said he did not shun the debate, but he was not formally invited.
“I did not go because they did not invite me and I had already laid out my campaign plans for that day,” Mailosi said in a telephone interview.
Efforts to speak to Malawi Congress Party candidate, Smart Custom who also shunned the debate proved futile as his phone went unanswered for several times.
However, Chimpeni maintained that NICE extended invitations to all the candidates in the constituency through their constituency offices, trashing allegations that some were not invited.
Speaking during the debate, the only available aspirant, Robert Mwina (independent) laid out development plans that he intends to implement in the constituency after he gets elected, emphasizing on issues of infrastructure development, education and security.
Said Mwina: “I want to improve the road network and education in this constituency, but most importantly, I will ensure that as government, we intensify security especially for people with albinism who, over the past years, have been hunted like animals.”
Phalombe East is in the immediate boarder with Mozambique where cases of human trafficking and attacks on albinos are high.