Electoral dispute resolution, interventions of MPLCs

Last week we looked at the background history, composition and functionality of the MPLCs.  Remember the idea to set up the MPLCs was mooted in the run up to the Local Government Elections in 2000 whereby the Commission was overwhelmed with complaints from electoral stakeholders. The Commission did not have capacity to timely address all complaints most of which were happening at the grassroots level. This week we continue looking at the areas of intervention by the MPLCs with case studies from the ground. 

It should be mentioned that the MPLCs hold no legal authority and they depended on the ability to facilitate consensus and their skills of arbitration. Over years they have been effective in the following areas:

  • Violence prevention or reduction: MPLCs have over time demonstrated capacity to reduce levels of violence. Since they are close to the grassroots, they are able to detect early warnings, meet timeously and take collective preventative steps. Where all parties have abided to the steps, triggers of violence have been nipped in the bud. Challenge has been determination of spoiler forces that ignore such steps and went all the way to pursue their agenda.
  • Dialogue and Reconciliation: Since membership is drawn from a broad array of stakeholders at the district level, MPLCs have been able to facilitate dialogue and negotiations and build consensus. Through this dialogue, there has been deepened mutual understanding among stakeholders which has also promoted co-existence and toleration. 
  • Problem-solving and community-building: Since members of the MPLCs come from the same area, they fully understand the grassroots dynamics and it is easier for them to solve problems arising. Since the members are peers they have the ability to facilitate processes of joint problem-solving which is certainly one of their greatest strengths. Through this, they are also able to restore a sense of “communityhood” under the most difficult circumstances. They have thus contributed to peace building because each dispute or problem that has been resolved contributes to building mutual trust and confidence in their joint ability to manage their own lives.

A very good example whereby an MPLC played all the roles above was in Goliati in Thyolo whereby a fatal violence broke up during a presidential rally in the run-up to the 2014 elections. The MPLC was engaged and its members were asked to speak at a reconciliation rally arranged by MEC and the MPLC. The rally was well patronized by people from the community. The messages from the party leaders, donning their colours, during the meeting brought healing to the community and there was no incidence of violence was reported for the whole electoral period.