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Mec under pressure

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By Macdonald Thom:

Some political parties and civil society organisations (CSOs) which attended Wednesday’s National Elections Consultative Forum (Necof) meeting in Lilongwe have said there should be an independent investigation into circumstances that led to the loss of some equipment used in voter and civil registration.

The meeting, organised by the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec), follows a similar one held in August.

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Unlike the last meeting which was dominated by a growing demand for re-opening of centres in the first phase of voter registration, Wednesday’s meeting was dominated by queries on how kits for civil registration and voter registration went missing.

One kit, which was meant to be used in Mwanza in the fourth phase of voter registration, was found in Mozambique on September 29 2018. It went missing when it was being transported to Mwanza. But when it was recovered, the kit did not have a laptop and printer.

In Mzuzu, a laptop and a power bank also went missing from Mec’s warehouse at Katoto between October 23 and 24.

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During the meeting, Mec Director of Information and Communication Technology, Muhabi Chisi, made a presentation in which he assured the stakeholders that the loss of the kits would not affect next year’s tripartite elections.

National Registration Bureau (NRB) also made a presentation whose aim was to dispel fears that loss of the equipment would have an impact on the elections.

Despite the explanations, the stakeholders still wanted more action on the issue.

Malawi Congress Party deputy secretary general, Catherine Gotani Hara, said there is need for Mec to allow other experts to probe the issue.

“Mec has given us an explanation. We understand whatever we have been told about how the kits went missing. But we, as political parties, want further investigations into this issue,” she said.

People’s Party Secretary General, Ibrahim Matola, suspected that the loss of the equipment was planned.

“We need a private investigator into [to look] the issue. It seems that [the loss of the equipment] was a product of a deal gone wrong between Mec and the driver of the lorry. Therefore, we need to get deep into this issue,” Matola said.

Malawi Electoral Support Network Chairperson, Steve Duwa, also supported the idea of hiring an independent investigator.

“We came here because there was a problem. Mec was supposed to tell stakeholders what happened.

 People now have a lot of questions. Mec has given us an explanation, let us give them the benefit of doubt. But we support an idea of having independent investigators. This should be linked to investigations by the police,” he said.

Other stakeholders wondered why, up to now, Mec is not making public all names of people involved in the matter.

Mec Chairperson, Jane Ansah, indicated that the police are still investigating the cases.

“It will be premature to mention names. We need to protect the rights of all people who might have handled the kits,” she said.

She, however, said Mec is ready to have independent investigators on the issue.

“You can have people look into these issues, look at the gadgets and come up with your own conclusions. We are open. We are transparent,” Ansah said.

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