When the voter registration exercise for the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections entered phase four yesterday, eligible voters could not help but share their excitement at the swift process that, at most, lasted under a minute.
To those with National Registration Bureau (NRB) issued national identity (IDs) cards, the process is even faster to their pleasant surprise. They hand in their national ID to a registration clerk who scans it and, in a flash, they get a slip showing their details; notably, name, date of birth, district of registration, centre, constituency, registration date and a barcode.
Said one registration clerk: “Thank you for taking your time to register. Please bring this slip and your national ID on polling day.”
Before one settles down, the process was done and the next eligible registrant is called in.
“It’s taken me 34 seconds to register for 2019 Malawi elections! I don’t see why you shouldn’t register to vote,” wrote an excited Chifundo Scott on Facebook.
In an interview, another registrant, Innocent Banda from Chemusa in Blantyre, said he was excited that the process was not taking long as he initially thought.
He said: “When I heard from some people that the process was not taking long I thought they were exaggerating. But when I went to register today that is when I believed that it is just a matter of seconds.”
Catherine Mwamvani from Chirimba also expressed excitement with the process.
She said: “When I went to the centre where I registered, I could not believe it when the process just took only about 45 seconds.”
For those who did not register during the NRB mass registration exercise, they are ushered to the NRB desk within the registration centre where they fill in their details, get a code and register to vote.
Phase four of the voter registration, covering three Southern Region districts of Blantyre, Mwanza and Chikwawa and the Central Region district of Ntcheu, will close on August 29.
In an interview last evening, MEC director of media and public relations Sangwani Mwafulirwa described the first day of phase four as “wonderful”.
He said the processes went on smoothly, a development he said was a motivation to the electoral body.
Said Mwafulirwa: “It has been amazing that the first day has been excellent. We have not registered any challenges so far and we hope that this will be the case throughout.
“We had issues to do with our solar panels, but we replaced them with powerful solar panels and with the weather being good on our part, we hope the process continues to proceed smoothly.”
He said at some centres over a thousand registered on the first day.
During spot-checks by The Nation at some centres in Blantyre, people were seen registering in large numbers. In most cases, the process lasted less than a minute for those with national IDs and five minutes for those who had to go through the NRB registration first.
At some centres, there were less people while at others there were no people at all. Centre supervisors attributed the lack of queues to functioning registration equipment.
Centre supervisor at Blantyre district commissioner (DC) offices, Eveness Chiwaula, said the process was smooth as the registration equipment was fast, enabling registrants not to take much time.
She said that by 10 am the centre had registered about 200.
At Henry Henderson Institute (HHI), at around 11am, few people were found registering; but centre supervisor Allan Wasi said they had registered 165 people.
In Chikwawa Central and North constituencies, there were over 1 000 registered by 3pm.
In an interview yesterday, National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust Chikwawa district civic education officer Joseph Chambala said his organisation is impressed with the high turnout on the first day of the exercise.
He attributed the high turnout to sensitisation campaigns civil society organisations conducted in the district.
At one of the centres in Chikwawa Central, Pembe Primary School, over 166 out of the projected 628 people had registered, representing 26 percent.
In Ntcheu, 500 people registered at Chipula Primary School in Ntcheu North Constituency, according to the centre supervisor Vasco Juma.
In Mwanza Central Constituency, there were 469 registered at Mwanza Secondary School centre alone, according to one of the monitors, Christopher Kabula.
But The Nation observed at most centres only the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) had monitors. However, at some centres no political party monitors were in sight.
DPP spokesperson Nicholas Dausi said it was worrisome that there were no monitors at some centres. He said the party would follow up.
People’s Party (PP) spokesperson Noah Chimpeni said he was tied up, but said he would respond to a message we sent him. However, as we went to press, he had not responded.
Efforts to talk to United Democratic Front (UDF) spokesperson Ken Ndanga proved futile as his phone was out of reach. But responding to the issue of monitors on Wednesday, the party’s secretary general Kandi Padambo confirmed receiving reports of lack of UDF monitors during the first three phases in the Central Region.
MCP spokesperson the Reverend Maurice Munthali did not pick up his phone on numerous attempts but he is on record as having told The Nation on Wednesday that the party will provide monitors in all districts.
United Transformation Movement (UTM) spokesperson Joseph Chidanti Malunga said his grouping was awaiting completion of paperwork with MEC before it can deploy monitors.
MEC chairperson Jane Ansah is on record as expressing optimism that phase three of voter registration, which covered Lilongwe District, would proceed smoothly devoid of the challenges encountered in the first and second phases.