The main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and civil society organisations (CSOs) under the banner of Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HDRC) have called for the immediate resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Justice Jane Ansah over incompetence in how she has handled the missing voter registration kit.
MCP and HDRC have warned that if Ansah does not resign within seven days, they will mobilise the masses to demonstrate until she leaves her position.
The threat follows revelations that a biometric voter registration kit used in the ongoing voter registration exercise was found on a train in Mozambique this week.
The development has raised fears of possible rigging in the 2019 Tripartite Elections.
MCP second deputy president Harry Mkandawire and publicity secretary the Reverend Maurice Munthali made the call during a press briefing in Mzuzu, while HRDC issued their demands in a statement signed by leaders Timothy Mtambo and Gift Trapence on Friday.
Munthali questioned MEC’s capacity to secure assets of public trust against theft and fraud, let alone an entire election.
“We demand the immediate resignation of the chair of the commission in recognition of her failure to prevent this breach from happening in the first place. We demand the immediate identification and dismissal of all MEC personnel that have had a hand in the loss of this biometric equipment,” he said.
The HRDC, in their statement, said the silence on the part of MEC compels them to conclude that the electoral body has failed to be accountable and transparent to the people who entrusted it with management of elections.
The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on the other hand, has also issued a statement of outrage, stressing, it will not get tired in holding MEC accountable, to ensure that Malawians enjoy their right to participate in a free, fair and transparent electoral process.
While United Democratic Front (UDF) spokesperson Ken Ndanga said MEC should immediately call for a meeting involving all stakeholders so that they can interrogate the matter in the spirit of transparency and accountability.
The concerns about rigging of elections emerged in July this year, when Vice-President Saulos Chilima, while launching the United Transformation Movement (UTM), alleged that he is aware that government has procured a spying machine.
But MEC has since ruled out any possibility of data in a biometric registration kit found in Mozambique being used to rig the 2019 elections, saying the information in the machine was for civic education and not voter registration.
However, the commission was at pains to justify the apparent secrecy by not divulging the missing and recovery of the kit to stakeholders as well as the public.
Speaking at a press briefing in Lilongwe on Friday, MEC chairperson for elections services committee Jean Mathanga explained that all the data in the recovered kit is intact as it was encrypted.
The recovered kit contained data for those who registered for citizenship at Ndonda in Kasungu, Nthuwila School in Ntchisi, and Chauwa School in Lilongwe and got lost as it was being transported in an open Tata truck from the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) en route to Mwanza, according to Mathanga.
She said MEC was informed of the recovery of the kit on September 29 2018 and when she was quizzed on the decision by the commission to keep silent, Mathanga said the electoral body did not want to give the public half-baked information.
“We reported the matter to police and we are still waiting for them to give us the facts of the case. In the meantime, we are treating the matter as an issue of theft.”
According to Mathanga the commission also feared that other stakeholders could exaggerate the matter by making wild allegations of rigging.
Meanwhile MEC chairperson of civic and media committee Moffat Banda has described as “shameful and unfortunate” claims by Chilima about the existence of a rigging machine in the country.