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Tension at electoral stakeholders meeting

There was tension at a National Elections Consultative Forum (Necof) meeting held at Parliament Building in Lilongwe Monday with the issue of using a national identity cards for elections purposes taking centre stage.

Currently, the National Registration Bureau (NRB) is conducting the exercise in Mchinji, Ntchisi, Dowa, Kasungu, Nkhotakota and Salima.

The Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) said it decided to engage the stakeholders, including Members of Parliament (MPs), following concerns that have been raised on the issue.

MPs, particularly those from the Central Region, have been raising concerns over the national registration process which they argue is not going on smoothly.

With the card linked to voter registration, they suspect it may be a ploy to have few people registered in the region.

Lilongwe Mpenu MP Watson Makala Ngozo questioned the independence of the electoral body by citing how it has performed its duties in the past.

People’s Party (PP) Secretary General Ibrahim Matola expressed concern over challenges Muslim women in Salima are facing.

Dowa East legislator Richard Chimwendo Banda said he was surprised that Mec has joined the registration process at this stage.

“Where were you when this process started? And there is no civic education. For example, in my constituency, I am the only one doing civic education. We think all this is coming because you have plans to rig the forthcoming elections. You should not jump into NRB’s work,” Chimwendo Banda said.

Mec Chairperson Jane Ansah, who initially was answering the questions while seated, stood up when responding to some of the questions.

“Mec is not coming late. We have been there from the beginning. Some of our staff have been seconded to NRB. We all have to play our part in civic education. MPs, chiefs and all stakeholders have a role to play. We have been talking about this in past meetings. Your SGs [Secretaries General], were supposed to share the information so that we are on the same page,” Ansah said.

She later on asked the MPs to be serious on issue on national registration.

“We have come here. We expected all the 193 MPs to be present, yet we have maybe 23 only. Even when the NRB came here, they started with only nine MPs but ended with 35. Let us be serious,” Ansah said.

She stressed that the registration process is going on smoothly.

According to NRB Chief Director Tresfore Kang’ombe, they are planning to register at least 90 percent of all eligible people in the first phase.

He added that they would leave some equipment at district level so as to register all eligible people who would not have done so at the end of the phase.

National Initiative for Civic Education Executive Director Ollen Mwalubunju said his organisation is doing its best on civic education.

“We planned to have 600 civic education activities. But depending on the need, we implemented more than that. We have reached out to traditional leaders, schools and many others. But the responsibility is on all of us,” Mwalubunju said.

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