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Immigration tough on visas

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By Faith Kadzanja:

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services has taken a strict stand on issuance of visas ahead of the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections, by among other measures, being strict on nationals from India, Nigeria and Russia.

The development comes barely days after President Peter Mutharika claimed that someone had bought a machine to be used for rigging the elections and that the people are coming from Nigeria, Russia and Greece for such a mission.

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Ironically, an internal memo which The Daily Times has seen from the department, dated April 23 2019, says there should be strict regulation when issuing visas especially to Nigerians, Indians and Russians.

“Take note that all visa issuance to risky countries (category 1) including Nigerians, Indians and Russians must be referred to Headquarters for vetting,” reads part of the memo from the department’s director general Masauko Medi.

The department’s spokesperson, Joseph Chauwa, Wednesday said he could not comment on the issue as it concerns internal communication.

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“I may not comment much on an internal memo but you are aware that May is an election month and we as a department, have to make sure that we provide necessary security on our part in terms of checking people that enter and exit the country,” he said.

The memo, has signed Chief Permit Officer, Anny Kaonga, has also advised immigration officials to mount road-blocks day and night and has restricted routine holidays for its members of staff.

When making the rigging remarks, Mutharika further said he knew the whereabouts of the rigging machine but many critics have faulted the President, saying his remarks may just be a campaign strategy.

Malawi Congress Party and other political parties expressed concern that the 2014 elections, which saw Mutharika winning the presidency on Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) ticket, were rigged.

Ironically, Mutharika and Saulos Chilima, his running mate in the 2014 elections and now UTM leader, are making accusations of rigging. Chilima is the country’s Vice-President.

However, Malawi Electoral Commission has repeatedly dismissed claims of rigging, challenging those who are making the claims so to bring the evidence.

Chancellor College political analyst Mustapha Hussein, commenting on Mutharika’s claims of rigging, told The Daily Times edition of yesterday that “he would have been believable if he had the machine with him when he made the claims”.

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