Some political parties and aspirants are applying all tricks in the book, including playing psychological games on registered voters, to woo them to vote for their parties.
One such tricks being played by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party is that some of its party functionaries are collecting national identity (ID) and voter registration certificate numbers from prospective voters. The exercise, a DPP official in Ntcheu said assures them that people whose ID numbers they collected, will vote for the party.
Enelesi Nyandula from Bamba Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Phambala, Ntcheu, who was asked to give out her voter and ID numbers told Weekend Nation last Saturday that she was asked to do so by DPP officials.
She said the officials recorded her number and some numbers from people they claim to be their supporters as well as those they approached to vote for them.
“They are asking people who support DPP and some who can support them to give the party officials their national ID numbers as well as voter registration certificate numbers. They said they want them for the upcoming elections,” explained Nyandula, who was not sure whether or not it is safe to give out the numbers.
“Some people have already given them their numbers,” she said. DPP secretary general Greselder Jeffery and the party’s spokesperson Nicholas Dausi on Wednesday refused to comment on the matter.
But Jeremiah Lilani, a DPP campaign director for Ntcheu South Constituency, where Nyandula comes from, confirmed in an interview last Saturday that the party in Ntcheu is indeed approaching DPP members and people who promise to vote for the party’s candidates to collect their ID numbers.
“We got instructions from above to collect the national IDs numbers from those who promise to vote for the party’s candidates,” he said.
Lilani explained that the party is only recording numbers of those who registered to vote and are ready to vote for the party on May 21.
“We want to know who will vote for us. And after collecting the numbers, we record their names according to the areas they will vote. Recording their ID numbers assures us that they will vote for us,” said Lilani, who could not, however, clearly indicate how this is so considering that voting is by secret ballot.
A senior party official, speaking on condition of anonymity, also told Weekend Nation on Tuesday that the move is just a strategy the party is using to encourage voters to vote for the ruling party.
“We want the registered voters to feel that the party will know who they voted for,” he said.
Weekend Nation has found that the practice is widespread in Ntcheu, Phalombe, Mulanje, Blantyre, Kasungu, Mchinji and Rumphi districts.
Sibongile Machinjiri from Lunguzi Village in T/A Lundu in Blantyre said she was one of the people some party officials, who she did not name, asked her to surrender her voter ID and National Registration numbers without being told what they wanted them for.
“At first they told us they will use them for distributing relief food, but two months have passed and we have not received anything,” explained Machinjiri.
Enock Mangola, 70, from Mishoni Village, T/A Mabuka in Mulanje district said the practice also started two months ago in his area.
“We don’t know why (they are collecting the cards), but we are scared,” said Mangola.
In Rumphi, according to Moir Walita Mkandawire, the practice has been taking place at Mlowe, Chiweta, Zunga, Old Salawe, Mhuju and Hewe.
Mkandawire said when he noticed the malpractice, he registered a complaint with Nice Trust in the district but he said nothing has happened to date.
But district civic education officer for Nice in Rumphi, Mollen Zgambo, said for his office to act it needs evidence that the practice is indeed taking place, which they are yet to receive.
We could not establish which political party is behind the malpractice in other districts in the country.
Playing with people’s minds
Nice Trust civic education officer for the Southern Region Enoch Chinkhuntha said his office has been receiving reports of party agents recording voter’s ID numbers and they are still investigating the reports.
“I think they are doing this to play with the minds of the voters. No one will fail to vote or notice who one has voted for because someone took their numbers,” said Chinkhuntha, who asked those whose numbers were recorded to report the matter to police.
But, in an interview on Wednesday, Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) commissioner Jean Mathanga condemned the practice.
“Our office has been receiving such reports but there is no official complaint registered against those doing so,” she explained.
But she explained that while collecting IDs is an offence, according to Section 24 (3, 4 and 5) of the Parliamentary and Presidential Act, which carries a seven-year jail term, “there is no offence for someone collecting the ID numbers”.
“But more importantly, there is need to establish the motivation for taking down the numbers. If it is to manipulate voters, then authorities should intervene and discourage the practice while voters need to be sensitised on the matter,” Mathanga explained.
She assured those whose ID numbers may have already been collected that they should not worry because they will be able to vote.
“Even if you lost your ID card, or someone took your ID number, you will still be able to vote. Those collecting IDs or numbers cannot use them for voting,” she said.
Seven presidential candidates are crisscrossing the country to woo the 6.8 million people who registered as voters in the May 21 elections.
But the front runners are DPP’s Peter Mutharika, Lazarus Chakwera who is standing on an MCP ticket, Saulos Chilima of UTM and Atupele Muluzi, who is standing on a UDF ticket.—Additional reporting by Kondwani Kamiyala, Martha Chirambo and Steven Pembamoyo