Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) on Tuesday condemned acts of electoral violence that have been reported in some parts of the country, mainly in the Southern Region.
Speaking at a press briefing in Blantyre on Tuesday, MEC chairperson Jane Ansah said the commission condemns in the strongest terms recent incidents of electoral violence and asked the police to arrest the perpetrators.
However, responding to a question from The Nation on how the commission is moving to eradicate violence during the official campaign period launched on Saturday, she said they are reporting everything to police for their action.
Said Ansah: “Whenever there is violence, we report to police as they are mandated to act in such scenarios. What we do is to appeal to stakeholders that there should be no violence.”
Ansah, a Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal judge, said MEC is satisfied with the way the police are handling cases they report to them.
However, she said they will not suspend the second phase of the registration exercise because for the commission to arrive at such a decision, it needs to look at the nature of the violence perpetrated.
During the first phase of the registration, MEC prematurely suspended the exercise in Blantyre City due to vandalism of registration equipment at some centres in Ndirande Township.
The first phase of the registration exercise in Chitipa, Karonga, Salima, Dedza, Blantyre, Chikwawa and Nsanje run from April 4 to April16 instead of April 17 as MEC abruptly stopped the process after government announced a 21-day lockdown due to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. However, the lockdown order was later challenged in court through an injunction obtained by the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC).
Meanwhile, the second phase, which started on April 27 and is expected to end on May 10, is being conducted in Rumphi, Likoma, Dowa, Thyolo, Mulanje, Phalombe, Luchenza Municipality and Lilongwe District and City.
However, in the course of the exercise, there are allegations that some centres are registering minors to vote in the fresh presidential election slated for July 2 2020 following a February 3 Constitutional Court ruling.
Responding to a question on how MEC will act on the allegations, Ansah Tuesday said the commission is currently weighing two options: whether to use the May 21 2019 voters’ register or go back to the centres in question and conduct a verification exercise with the new registrants.
Cases of political violence, mostly targeting opposition political party monitors and followers, have increased as the country is approaching the fresh presidential poll.
However, when asked how many cases of political violence have so far been recorded and the steps taken, National Police on the issue this morning.spokesperson James Kadadzera said they would respond
Earlier, Kadadzera is on record as having told The Nation in an interview on Saturday that they received one case from Thawale in Mulanje where UTM Party supporters were assaulted.
However, in 2018, our sister newspaper Weekend Nation indicated that as the country was approaching the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections, police failed to act on at least 90 percent of brutal acts of politically motivated violence.
A research the Weekend Nation conducted on serious violent cases published in Weekend Nation, The Nation and Nation on Sunday, indicated that out of 15 incidents of violence that occurred between 2014 and 2018, police only acted swiftly on one case in which opposition party supporters were accused of attacking governing DPP functionaries in Mzuzu.
Meanwhile, MEC is today expected to receive nomination papers from presidential candidates expected to contest in the fresh presidential election.
On Tuesday, Ansah said as part of Covid-19 precautionary measures, they have put in place restrictions to avoid further potential spread of the pandemic.