For two days from 29th June 1983, one-party parliamentary elections were conducted in Malawi barely a month after the three cabinet ministers namely: Hon. Dick Matenje, Hon. Twaibu Sangala, Hon. Aaron Gadama and a Member of Parliament Hon. David Chiwanga otherwise known as the “Mwanza Four,” were assassinated.
The Parliament had been officially dissolved at the end of a special session held on 17 May 1983 in Zomba which was the very day the “Mwanza Four” were nabbed on their way from attending this special session.
These “Mwanza Four” were brutally murdered by state security operatives and dumped in Mwanza district at a place called Thambani the following day (18th May 1983) when they were supposed to be among the parliamentary candidates for the 29-30 June 1983 elections to receive nomination certificates at Kwacha Conference Centre in Blantyre. This party event was scheduled to be chaired by Hon. Dick Matenje himself in his capacity as Secretary General of the party.
There were a total of 3,278,907 people who had registered to vote in the 29-30 June 1983 polls. Surprisingly, the number of registered voters in the next parliamentary elections held five years later from 27-28 May 1987, was the same according to the records. This means that the figure had remained unchanged which is rather quite odd.
While the figures for the turnout on the polling days, are not available, the records show that for the 101 seats, there were 21 candidates who ran unopposed, 34 incumbent MPs were re-elected while 64 became new members of the August house.
The Malawi Congress Party (MCP) was the only political entity legally allowed to exist at the time and Life President Dr. Hastings Banda had the powers to appoint as many additional members of parliament as he deemed fit to “enhance the representative character of the Assembly, or to represent particular minority or other special interests in the Republic.”
For one to participate as a voter or candidate in the parliamentary elections held during the one party state in Malawi, among others you needed to be:
At least aged 21 (not 18), a citizen and you must have resided in Malawi for the previous two years. If you were a citizen over 21 years of age but based in diaspora, you couldn’t be allowed to travel back to register and vote without having stayed in Malawi continuously for two years prior to the elections.
And further to this, if you were declared bankrupt or ever convicted by a court of law, you would not be allowed to contest as a candidate and let alone register and vote in the polls.
Candidates had to first undergo the nomination processes during party conferences at district level. Then the names of the nominated candidates from all districts were submitted to Dr Banda as the Life President of the party and the republic to scrutinize them. He had the absolute powers to finally reject or approve any of the nominated candidates.