Commission (MEC) has dismissed calls from a group of opposition parties for its top brass to resign following the theft and missing of components of biometric registration kits used in the voter registration process.
In a statement dated November 7 2018, chief elections officer Sam Alfandika said the missing kit belongs to the National Registration Bureau (NRB), apparently contradicting an earlier position where the electoral body claimed ownership of the gadgets.
He said: “It is, therefore, retrogressive to hear repeated calls from some quarters for the resignation or stepping aside of the commission’s chairperson and management on a matter that was thoroughly discussed and resolved at Necof [National Elections Consultative Forum].
“The allegations and statements that are being made by some quarters are not only affecting the confidence that Malawians have in the Commission but are also likely to negatively impact on the level of participation of voters on polling day.”
The MEC statement comes a day after a bloc of 10 opposition parties on Tuesday called for the suspension of three top officials, including chairperson Jane Ansah and Alfandika, to pave the way for investigations into the matter that has attracted wide condemnation from various stakeholders.
But in its statement titled Clarification on the Lost But Found BVR Kit, the electoral body said during the Necof meeting in Lilongwe last Wednesday, concessions were made to allow for an independent forensic audit on the stolen piece of machinery.
MEC said it agreed to convene a meeting with representatives of political parties under the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) to map the way forward.
During the Tuesday news conference, chairperson for the 10-party grouping, former vice-president and leader of the Assembly for Democracy and Development (ADD), Cassim Chilumpha, asked Ansah, Alfandika and chairperson for Electoral Services Committee Jean Mathanga to step aside.
The parties calling for the removal of top MEC officials include ADD, the People’s Party, ADD, People’s Progressive Movement, United Transformation Movement, Malawi Forum for Unity and Development, People’s Transformation Party, Alliance for Democracy, Malawi Democratic Party, Republican Party, Alliance for Democracy and the New Labour Party.
But some analysts have cast doubt at the effectiveness of the demand, saying what MEC need to do is to ensure compliance on the issue of conducting independent investigations into the matter.
Other stakeholders such as the Public Affairs Committee and the Malawi Law Society have also recommended an independent forensic audit to help MEC restore its public perception.
During a heated Necof meeting last week, political parties refused to accept MEC’s clarification on the matter despite the electoral body bringing experts from the NRB and Malawi Communications Authority to vouch on its behalf.
There has been mist on the biometric registration kit found in Mozambique with NRB claiming ownership and that the gadget is for production of national identity (ID) cards.
The NRB explanation contradicted an earlier position presented by Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) through Mathanga that the kit—discovered in a cargo train that plies between Moatize Coal Mine in Tete to Nacala Port both in Mozambique over a 912 kilometres distance through Malawi—was for voter registration in the ongoing exercise ahead of the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
The rigging concerns come against a background of remarks by Vice-President Saulos Chilima during the launch of the United Transformation Movement in Lilongwe in July that there was a ‘spy machine’ to be used for vote rigging.