The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) yesterday came under fire from opposition parties for failing to open on time containers with tents and gas lamps from Zimbabwe for use during the May 20 Tripartite Elections.
MEC maintained that it could not open without the presence of Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) officials who were nowhere to be seen.
The electoral body announced the arrival of materials from Zimbabwe and requested political parties and other interested organisations to witness the opening of the containers at 8am at its premises.
MEC’s announcement came amid claims in the public domain that the containers contained pre-marked ballot papers apparently to facilitate rigging of the elections. But MEC officials have dismissed that school of thought, saying ballot papers are yet to be printed.
Several stakeholders, including political parties, journalists, the Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) and Youth Net and Counselling (Yoneco), were present at MEC premises before the scheduled 8am.
However, by 1pm no container had been opened, prompting politicians, journalists and other stakeholders to approach MEC spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa who apologised for the delay.
Mwafulirwa said it was agreed that MRA would arrive at MEC offices yesterday in the morning but did not know what delayed them.
He said: “We even sent a vehicle to collect them, but we were told that they would use their vehicle.”
This explanation angered Redson Munlo, from the United Democratic Front (UDF), who asked whether that was a rigging gimmick.
The opposition has been expressing fears of suspicions of rigging since the landing of a Nigerian plane after midnight at Chileka Airport in Blantyre. Government said the plane carried President Joyce Banda’s visitors.
Later in the day, Mwafulirwa sent communication that MRA officials would come at 3pm.
But the MRA officials said they were not aware of the activity at MEC; hence their absence earlier in the day.
However, MEC commissioner Gloria Chingota insisted the electoral body communicated to MRA.
“What is important, however, is that MRA officials are here and the containers have been opened,” said Chingota.
Since it was late, it was agreed that only sampling should take place but that full checking of each and every item would be done on Tuesday.