Malawi Law Society (MLS) says the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) should not handle investigations into the theft of a Biometric Voter Registration Kit (BVRK) in September as the electoral body cannot investigate itself.
MLS president Alfred Majamanda, in a written response yesterday, said the electoral body must strive to repair its image and manage public perception of how the body is conducting itself.
He said: “We understand MEC has given their part of the story. However, it is a cardinal principle of law that you cannot be a judge in your own cause. An independent investigation to corroborate what MEC is saying is vital. As MLS, we recommend serious investigations into the matter to inform us how these gadgets went missing.”
The MLS head also pointed out the need for MEC to ensure that disciplinary measures are meted out on the officers responsible for the loss of the equipment, which according to an earlier MEC statements was discovered on a cargo train in Mozambique.
MEC, in the statement, said the equipment was lost in transit from Mzuzu to Mwanza but was found on a coal train belonging to Vale Logistics in neigbouring Mozambique.
Vale Logistics officials are yet to respond to our inquiry on how the equipment found itself on one of its trains.
At a National Elections Consultative Forum (Necof) meeting in Lilongwe last Wednesday, electoral stakeholders rejected MEC’s suggestion to use National Registration Bureau (NRB) and Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) Information and Communication Technology (ICT) experts to investigate the case.
When contacted yesterday, MEC chief elections officer Sam Alfandika said he could not comment as he was travelling.
But during the Necof meeting last week, MEC chairperson Justice Jane Ansah assured the stakeholders that data in the missing kit had not been tampered with.
She said the equipment that was found in Mozambique was property of NRB, which was confirmed by NRB chief director Harry Kanjewe.
But that contradicted an earlier statement which was signed by MEC electoral services committee chairperson Jean Mathanga confirming MEC’s ownership of the equipment.
A political science lecturer at Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi (Unima), Ernest Thindwa, in an interview yesterday, said public trust in State institutions have waned overtime; hence, the need for independent personnel to handle the investigations.
“It is important that MEC should realise that citizens must have trust in the electoral body. Therefore, they must ensure that this trust is maintained at all cost, otherwise, attempts to investigate this matter on their own will not solve the problem. Allowing an independent audit will salvage MEC’s reputation.
“Bringing other State organs will only complicate matters because in my view, many people do not trust these as well. It is in the best interest of MEC and the country to have an independent party to investigate this matter.”
On his part, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) publicity secretary Maurice Munthali said the party expects MEC to act on their demands.
He said: “Malawians cannot accept MEC’s explanation. Initially, we demanded the resignation of the MEC chairperson and a forensic investigation. We are waiting for this independent inquiry which must be dictated by electoral stakeholders.
“But if the investigations reveal that data was tampered with then we will not relent on the chairperson’s ouster. This matter borders on perception and trust, therefore, it is important that MEC should do the right thing.”
People’s Party (PP) spokesperson Ackson Kalaile Banda warned MEC of unspecified action if it does not bow to the demands of the electoral stakeholders.
“If MEC does not comply with our demands for an independent investigation, then we will take further steps on the matter. We have lost trust in their handling of the electoral process,” he said.
But governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesperson Nicholas Dausi said he needed time to consult on his party’s position over the matter.