Tension and fear gripped Kasungu residents yesterday after a group of seven people was reportedly spotted at various places allegedly collecting voters’ information and demanding to know who they planned to vote for in the May 20 Tripartite Elections.
The suspicious team was travelling in a silver minibus registration BR 6426, according to witnesses who claimed that two more vehicles with ‘IT’ temporary registration plates were trailing the team.
The development came days after the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) suspended a voters’ roll verification exercise which was marred by irregularities and inconsistencies ahead of the elections.
Kasungu Police Station confirmed that its officers narrowly missed the group when they were deployed around 9am to intercept the suspects at their reportedly first stop at Linga near founding president the late Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s Ngulu ya Nawambe private residence following a tip-off from the public.
The team was then spotted at Chatoloma, Nkhamenya and Jenda towards Mzimba where they were allegedly asking prospective voters who they would vote for come May 20, apart from recording some voters’ ID serial numbers.
However, police later managed to intercept the suspects at Jenda Roadblock where, when pressed, they said they were State House operatives.
Kasungu Police officer-in-charge John Nyondo said: “One of the suspects, a Mr Kuntiya, also said to be the team leader, even gave the contact number of the guy from State House in Lilongwe said to have sanctioned the ‘research’ in the district.”
When contacted for comment, Kuntiya referred the issue to the purported State House official who denied any knowledge of the exercise.
The official also refused to provide his name, but could only promise to call back before close of business on Thursday.
But in a twist of events, later, this reporter got a call from one Thoko Manda, who identified himself as the group’s bonafide research coordinator, saying: “Actually, we are a private-owned company based in Blantyre and we go by the name Tasha Communications. This opinion poll we are conducting is countrywide and we are not necessarily targeting any particular region or district.”
Manda also confirmed to have been asking prospective voters who they would choose in the May 20 elections; citing it was “necessary to sample the popularity of various parties and candidates ahead of the polls”.