Crimes Involving Dishonesty or Moral Turpitude in Malawi’s Elections

The Constitution of the Republic of Malawi disqualifies any person for
election as president, vice president or member of parliament who has,
within the last seven years, been convicted by a competent court of a crime
involving dishonesty or moral turpitude. The Local Government Elections
Act also disqualifies such a person from being elected as a councillor on
similar grounds. In addition, once elected, these office holders can lose their
seats on similar grounds. The question becomes, what are crimes involving
dishonesty or moral turpitude? Worldwide, courts have struggled to define
this amorphous concept. In Malawi, a few cases have been heard in both
the High Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal to determine whether the
offences in issue were crimes involving dishonesty or moral turpitude. The
courts have labelled some offences as involving dishonesty or moral turpitude,
in other instances have rejected this label and in yet others have avoided
expressing an opinion one way or another. What is clear is that these words
remain vague but will keep coming up in the courts for determination in
relation to various offences. This paper is of the view that this disqualification
is an unlawful limitation of various political rights guaranteed under section
40 of the Constitution. While exploring different approaches to clarify the
phrase moral turpitude, it is ultimately recommended to simply scrap this
disqualification from the law and to empower the electorate to freely choose
whoever they want.

File Type: pdf
Categories: Journal of African Elections
journal of african elections vol18 number 1 transparent democratic governance in africa