Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) has faulted the National Registration Bureau (NRB) for the delay in rolling out national identity cards (IDs).
Presenting its 2016-2020 strategic plan in Thyolo on Thursday, Mesn chairperson Steven Duwa said a lot of money, which could have been saved for other issues, is spent on voter registration in each general election.
According to the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) report on the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections, out of the K18.5 billion (about $27million) election budget, K6.7 billion was spent on the voter registration exercise.
Duwa said it was their wish that by 2019, NRB will have issued the IDs which are also crucial in ensuring free, fair and credible elections since only true Malawian citizens would take part in the elections. Mesn comprises 27 non-governmental organisations.
He also called for the speedy appointment of MEC commissioners to ensure smooth preparation of the 2019 elections.
Said Duwa: “We really need to move fast as time is not on our side. If we start preparing now, we can catch up with time but any further delay will disturb the whole preparation process.”
He mentioned poor funding as one of the challenges Mesn is facing in implementing its programmes, saying most development partners focus on election day activities and not off-election season activities.
Duwa said in their new strategic plan, the network has planned to strengthen advocacy for implementation of non-legislative reforms of the country’s electoral process and systems and of the parallel voter tabulation to validate election results.
Commenting on the matter, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) executive director Timothy Mtambo urged NRB to take the issue of national identities as a matter of urgency and quicken the process.
Mtambo further said apart from being crucial in elections, IDs will minimise resources spent on people from neighbouring countries seeking Malawi’s public social services for free as it is difficult to distinguish them from locals.
When he made a courtesy call to brief Blantyre District Council on the National ID Proof of Concept (PoC) project in Blantyre early last month, NRB chief registration officer for population Elvis Salagi said the first phase of the production and issuance of national identity cards will kick-start this month in 11 sampled districts across the country.
He said the pilot exercise is expected to last two months, targeting 5 000 Malawians aged 16 and above.