By Madalitso Kateta, Mec Stringer:
The Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) has dismissed fears that foreign nationals could take advantage of the voter registration exercise to obtain a Malawi national identity card.
Mec Chairperson, Justice Jane Ansah, said this in the border district of Mulanje, where fears are rife that Mozambicans would try to register as voters to benefit from the National Citizen Identification card initiative, when she launched the fifth phase of the voter registration exercise in the district.
“The commission has put in place all the necessary measures to ensure that no foreign national, who does not qualify, register as a voter registers in the ongoing voter registration exercise. This will be achieved through the use of local monitors who will verify if the applicant is, indeed, a Malawian citizen,” Ansah said.
After the successful rollout of the biometric voter register, which requires one to have a National Citizen Identification card to qualify as a voter, some electoral stakeholders such as People’s Federation for National Peace and Development (Pefenap) and Mtendere Elections Support Network have called for caution when registering prospective voters in border districts.
Pefenap Executive Director, who is also Mtendere Elections Support Network Publicity Secretary, Edward Chaka, warned Thursday that some foreign national would try to register in the exercise, thereby compromising national security.
“The right to vote applies to citizens of Malawi, and not foreigners, and it is, therefore, the responsibility of every Malawian to safeguard the national ID because cases of abuse may result in people losing trust in the national document.
“Malawians should be patriotic enough to safeguard the document. As you know, there are legitimate fears that some politicians, in a bid to gain political mileage through votes, may try to coax foreign nationals to register so that they [politicians] can garner more votes than their opponents. This would be counterproductive,” Chaka said.
In the case of Mulanje District, where Ansah launched the fifth phase on Sunday, there are two constituencies that border Mozambique. These are
Mulanje Limbuli and Mulanje South East constituencies.
Fears that Mozambicans may try to obtain the obtain the national ID have been compounded by reports that some Mozambicans registered as Malawian citizens during the mass citizen registration excise.
National Registration Bureau (NRB) assistant District Registrar, Wellingtone Kalambo, confirmed that his office has been receiving reports that some Mozambicans tried to register as Malawian citizens.
“We have, indeed, been having a number of cases especially from the Muloza area where chiefs could identify an individual as a Malawian national but when we interview him we could discover that he or she is a Mozambican national. Worse still, some of these Mozambican nationals could hold a Mec voter registration card [obtained during previous elections],” Kalambo said.
On Tuesday, Mulanje District Commissioner, Charles Makanga sent a strong warning to traditional leaders in the district, saying those found giving out false information to voter registration teams would be prosecuted.
“Giving false information to a public officer is a criminal offence and the law will apply on any chief that will try to give false information on the nationality of people that are trying to register as voters,” Makanga said.
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