NICE programmes help to entrench, strengthen democracy systems in Malawi

National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) Public Trust has expressed satisfaction with the level of democracy entrenchment from the grassroots to the national structures; a feat the organization has attributed to various activities has been conducting from 2014 to 2020.

Through its Chilungamo (Justice) Programme, NICE facilitated over five thousand activities across all the three regions during the national identity (ID) registration period, voter registration, voter verifications, electoral monitoring, peace building and post electoral activities.

It also conducted Covid-19 awareness and activities to fight against injustice.

NICE Acting Executive Director Gray Kalindekafe said on Wednesday that these activities reached an estimated 12 million Malawians with messages that helped citizens to understand their roles, duties and responsibilities in a democratic society.

“NICE organized over 100 training sessions and consultative meetings focused on tripartite elections and voter registration, which included participation from members of the media, volunteers, MPLC, community gate keepers, political leaders and religious leaders. Site visits were also conducted to engage the public in discussions regarding the tripartite and fresh presidential elections. The extensive coverage of NICE’s voter sensitization campaigns is evident, as a significant number of Malawians, as indicated by the focus group discussions (FGDs) and outcome assessment surveys, baseline and other studies commissioned by NICE Trust,” said Kalindekafe.

Kalindekafe (standing) stressing the point during one of the meetings

He said while NICE used the print media to showcase and feature most of the outcomes realized during this period, recent reports in the local media suggested that NICE’s success in raising public awareness about the roles of councilors and parliamentarians shapes the future of governance landscape and citizen participation will be perceived.

He cited the collaboration NICE had with the defunct Ministry of Civic Education and National Unity where the two institutions carried out loud hailing campaigns country wide in all the districts to raise awareness on Covid-19 preventive measures and mobilize eligible community members to effectively participate in the Covid-19 vaccination exercise.

The campaigns met with a lot of myths surrounding Covid-19, among them that Covid19 was meant for town residents and not the rural masses, and that people would die within two years after getting vaccinate, among others.

Others linked the vaccination to a biblical mark of the beast 666, that the vaccine is meant for depopulation; hence, people become impotent and sterile so that the world can be depopulated.

But through the NICE awareness, masses managed to get the truth about the pandemic and the vaccine hence there has been reduced cases of the virus.

Kalindekafe further disclosed that during the past five years, NICE, through its Multi-Annual Programme Estimate (MAPE), has been actively involved in election mobilization and poll observation activities in districts through an initiative called long term electoral monitoring.

NICE district offices played a vital role in the 2019 tripartite elections, as well as the 2020 Fresh Presidential Elections by fielding station and roving monitors across all the 5002 polling stations to ensure credibility of the polls and reporting of incidents. NICE also implementing effective strategies for voter awareness and mobilization.

In most districts, said Kalindekafe, NICE was the sole accredited institution for civic and voter education, covering all constituencies and wards within the districts. Over 300 thousand letters were distributed to churches and mosques country wide, urging voters to participate in the elections.

“Public political debates were held in all the 462 constituencies, and more than 100 stakeholder meetings were organized through the MPLCs, involving political party players, Traditional Leaders, Religious Leaders, Governors, Governesses, and Youth Governors, loud hailing activities were conducted in different areas, over 100,000 flyers and posters from MEC were distributed simultaneously. The traditional leaders utilized the night crying strategy through the volunteer structure. NICE played a significant part in promoting peaceful coexistence and tolerance during the elections, collaborating with structures like MPLCs and dedicated volunteers. Despite encountering resource limitations, NICE could not fully leverage its potential in participating in these activities. NICE contributed to the less than 2% null and void votes but also over 74% voter turnout,” he narrated.

On electoral reforms, NICE, as a member of the Task Force, actively participated in several meetings with the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), the Minister of Justice, and the Legal Affairs Committee to gain support for electoral reforms.

Working alongside a legal consultant, the Task Force has prepared proposed amendments based on the 2017 special electoral reform report and emerging issues.

The proposed reforms include amendments to the electoral commission act, harmonization of the presidential, parliamentary, and local government acts, and alignment of certain areas of the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act (PPE) with the Constitution. These efforts highlight NICE’s commitment to promoting effective and fair electoral processes through legal reforms.

NICE also supported radio listening clubs of Chitenjere and Phimbi to come up with programs touching current issues affect people.

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