Police have stepped up security in Blantyre as Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) expects to host a summit for Southern Africa’s electoral commissions from today to Friday amid post-election tension in the country.
Mec, through its chairperson, Jane Ansah, on Friday announced the hosting of the 21st Annual General Conference of the Electoral Commissions for Southern African Development Community Countries (ECF Sadc) in Blantyre.
It is unclear if Ansah, whose continued leadership of Mec has sparked nationwide demonstrations, would attend the conference.
Mec Chief Elections Officer, Sam Alfandika, declined to comment on the significance
of the conference which Vice- President, Everton Chimulirenji, is expected to officially open.
“Just come tomorrow [today] and ask all your questions to the relevant authorities who will be available for your questions. This is a Sadc thing and its president, vice and entire leadership will be there,” Alfandika said.
In the statement which Ansah signed, Mec says alongside the conference, ECF Sadc will also host a one-day international seminar on ‘Enhancing the Credibility of Elections through Observation.’
Malawi currently holds the presidency of the forum.
ECF Sadc is a network of electoral management bodies from 16 Sadc countries; Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, eSwatini, Zambia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zanzibar and Zimbabwe.
There was heavy presence of police in Blantyre yesterday as the city prepared for the conference.
Southern Region Police spokesperson, Ramsy Mshani, said they had stepped up security to ensure safety of delegates.
“We have visitors and such being the case, we have beefed up security. Whether she [Ansah] will be there or not is not an issue for us. What we are saying is that we have delegates and to ensure their safety, we need to step up security,” Mshani said.
Reacting to the summit, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) Chairperson, Timothy Mtambo, whose body has through nationwide demonstrations been pushing for Ansah’s resignation, questioned Sadc’s decision to hold the conference in Malawi.
“As a people, we don’t have issues with Sadc but we think Sadc is being insensitive. As a country, we have been looking for people who would come to engage our leaders so that they should be at peace with their people rather than coming in to pretend as if all is well when nothing is well. We expect Sadc leaders to be responsible,” Mtambo said.
“They shouldn’t have decided to come to Malawi. They know the situation in Malawi. They know the election is disputed and the case is in a Constitutional Court. Sadc has not done a good job. The best they can do is cancel this summit and take it to another country. They shouldn’t be imposing people on us. We, as people, lost trust in Jane Ansah and Mec.”
HRDC cut short its demonstrations which were supposed to last for three days last week. The protests took place last Wednesday only instead of three days.
HRDC shelved the protests so as to focus on preparations for a Supreme Court of Appeal case in which Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale is challenging the coalition on security matters during the protests.
Apart from HRDC’s push for Ansah’s resignation, Malawi Congress Party and UTM petitioned the Constitutional Court seeking nullification of the May 21 election results which they say were marred by irregularities.