UTM Party presidential candidate Saulos Chilima says the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is behind the missing of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras at Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) offices in Lilongwe on Tuesday this week.
The DPP has since dismissed the claims as campaign talk.
Chilima, who is also the country’s Vice-President, made the claims yesterday during a whistle-stop tour of Chitipa District.
His remarks come amid social media reports that unknown people broke into MEC offices in Area 3, Lilongwe and went away with the CCTV cameras.
Chilima charged: “It is DPP that have stolen the cameras from MEC. We are not surprised because it is the same DPP, led by Nicholas Dausi, that set a MEC warehouse on fire in 2014. Let them sue me if they want to. We shall meet in court.”
But in an interview yesterday Dausi, who is DPP spokesperson and Minister of Homeland Security, said Chilima is entitled to say whatever he wants as this is the campaign period.
He said: “We cannot be responding to everything Chilima says, then it will not be a campaign. He has the right to say whatever he wants. Let him continue.”
Ironically, Chilima was in the governing DPP when, on the night of July 15 2014, fire burnt the warehouse and destroyed some property, including ballot boxes scheduled for a vote recount in a contested Lilongwe City South East parliamentary election.
MEC declared DPP’s Bently Namasasu as winner of the parliamentary poll with 10 956 votes against Malawi Congress Party’s (MCP) Ulemu Msungama‘s 10 854, a difference of 102 votes.
But two days before a High Court hearing of the case, which followed a failed recount due to an injunction restraining MEC from going ahead with the process, the warehouse caught fire.
Hours after the arson, both MEC and MCP said they suspected arson.
Commenting on Chilima’s fire claims, MEC director of media and public relations Sangwani Mwafulirwa said in an interview that the electoral body has never been furnished with a detailed report about the fire.
He said: “In the talks that we had with police, the conclusion was that it was a normal fire accident and not arson. The personalities mentioned by the Veep are still around and they will be able to speak their side.”
Mwafulirwa, however, confirmed the break in at MEC offices in Lilongwe, but said none of the gadgets mentioned were stolen.
He said the matter has since been reported to police for further investigation.
Meanwhile, Institute for Policy Interaction executive director Rafiq Hajat said in an interview he did not see any problem with the UTM Party leader’s revelations.
He said Chilima was part of the DPP government before he broke ranks with President Peter Mutharika, as such he could not reveal incidences that were happening in the government he was serving.
He said: “Firstly, the Vice-President is a contender. He is involved in the race for the presidency. Previously, he was part of the government. So in government, there is a concept of collective responsibility. Therefore, whether one agree or do not agrees with what the government is doing, being part of the government you are responsible not to say anything.
“Therefore he could not speak before. But now he has broken ranks and he is actually competing for presidency. This is a campaign a tactic.”
On her part, Mzuzu-based political commentator Emily Mkamanga said Chilima’s revelation is still relevant because Malawians will be voting in three weeks time.
She said: “The revelation has come at the right time because we are going for elections. Everybody is saying an evil deed of what others have done… this is important because people are going to know what exactly happened.”
University of Livingstonia political commentator George Phiri backed Chilima for revealing the person who was behind the burning of the warehouse and loss of CCTV equipment.
He further warned that Chilima is likely to spill more beans, saying: “I believe we will be having more revelations. We should expect more, especially on corruption.”