A heated debate ensued in Parliament yesterday when members of Parliament (MPs) alleged that there were attempts to rig the 2019 elections because people were being sent back from registration centres in the ongoing National Registration Programme.
What irked the MPs, especially Kasungu Central legislator Amon Nkhata (Malawi Congress Party-MCP), was a declaration by Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) that the national identity (ID) card would be used as a voter certificate.
Nkhata said people were not adequately sensitised to the new development, as such, many would likely be disenfranchised.
Speaking on Standing Order 14 on issues of national importance, Nkhata asked the Minister of Home Affairs to clarify why registration officials were sending pople back because a quota was reached for the day.
“There are irregularities in Kasungu at Boma School where there was inadequate stationery and there are reports that workers are demanding a fee from people to process the registration,” he said.
Nkhata further said the process is taking three days before a card is printed.
He said there was a possibility that some people would not come back to collect their cards.
“This is why we see it as a rigging process. If people were aware that their names were being registered for election purposes as well, they would register en masse,” Nkhata said.
Lilongwe North MP Patricia Mkanda (MCP) urged the authorities to suspend the registration because of the challenges.
She argued that starting the registration in the Central Region would mean that those aged below 16 in the region would not be registered while those in Northern and Southern regions would be registered because they will have turned 16 by November.
Dowa West MP Alexander Kusamba Dzonzi (MCP) said the registration age should be reduced to 14 because these would be aged 16 by 2019.
In her response, Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Grace Chiumia conceded that challenges were being experienced in the exercise such as the breaking down of equipment.
On people being sent back, Chiumia said there was a cut off number of 80 a day to allow registration personnel capture data accurately. n