Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has allayed fears of vote rigging ahead of the tripartite elections today, saying social media reports and those made by UTM Party president Saulos Chilima on Sunday morning are baseless and aimed at diverting attention.
MEC chairperson Jane Ansah said yesterday at a press briefing held at Comesa Hall in Blantyre—the 2019 national tally centre—all ballot boxes and other electoral materials have reached all centres in the country and that security personnel, comprising officers from Malawi Police Services (MPS), Malawi Defence Force (MDF), Malawi Prison Service and Immigration Department, have been deployed to all polling centres nationwide.
During the briefing aimed at updating the nation on election progress, Ansah was accompanied by Deputy Inspector General of Police Duncan Mwapasa, Brigadier General Chikunkha Soko of MDF, MEC chief elections officer Sam Alfandika and his deputy Harris Potani.
She said the electoral body has put everything in place to ensure Malawians vote smoothly today, adding as of yesterday, the body only received one complaint, in writing, from UTM Party regarding efforts by the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to rig the election by deploying ‘cadets’ into the polling centres disguised as police officers.
The MEC chair said in the complaint, UTM Party mentioned the existence of a Zimbabwean national who was been in the country training the said DPP cadets as police officers, but she said the allegations were baseless.
Said Ansah: “The allegations had no supporting evidence. We have checked with responsible authorities about the said man and they assured us that the man has not been in the country. The report has no evidence; no names, no places. We do not have anything to look at and to check with. The claims are baseless to divert attention.”
On security Ansah said MEC wanted 11 000 security officers but MPS would only provide 5 500; hence, the police contracted 2 500 MDF personnel, with the rest being provided by Malawi Prison Services and the Immigration Department.
“When it comes to security, the institution that is responsible for internal security is the police. Having this in mind, we asked for 11 000 police officers to man the polling stations but because they were overwhelmed, they only provided 5 500 officers, and after meeting other security agents such as Malawi Defence Forces, Prison and Immigration officers, MDF pledged to only provide 2 500 officers. MEC has deployed 10 532 security officers for all centres,” she said.
Ansah said there is no advance voting in the election, putting to bed allegations that security officers have already voted.
“At the beginning of multiparty democracy in Malawi, the law provided for advanced voting but the law was amended. Everyone will vote [today] including security personnel, who will all vote where they have been assigned,” she said.
On his part, Mwapasa said MPS has not been infiltrated by DPP cadets, adding each polling centre will have two officers from different law enforcement agencies of either MPS, MDF, Malawi Prison Services or the Immigration Department.
He also explained why police officers from the Shire Valley were replaced with their colleagues from other areas, saying the area recorded many cases of violence and MPS brought in new officers that were not familiar to the area to enhance security.
MDF Brigadier General Soko also assured the nation that the MDF would provide more soldiers where shortfalls will be reported.
Meanwhile, former South Africa president Thabo Mbeki, who is head of the Commonwealth Observers Group, yesterday visited the national tally centre in Blantyre to appreciate preparations.
Speaking earlier, he said the group will deploy its observers in selected districts in the country’s three regions.
Mbeki said the Commonwealth observers will be working hand in hand with local electoral stakeholders to ensure free and fair elections.
“We are limited in numbers and clearly if we were thousands of people we would cover more districts. But unfortunately, we don’t have because it’s very costly to deploy missions like this. We believe that these deployments will be reinforced by what others might tell us,” said Mbeki.
On its part, Boniface Chibwana of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), an arm of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), said ECM, through his organisation, has deployed 662 monitors to enable the conference to have an independent voice on the elections.
He said his body planned to deploy monitors in all the polling stations, but due to limited resources, monitors will be deployed in selected centres.