By Serah Makondetsa:
Amid speculations about the agenda of the meeting between Malawi Electoral Commission’s (Mec) legal team and the commission’s staff, Malawi News has established that the commission was, among others, trying to establish who supplied Tippex to the presiding officers during the May 21 polls.
Last week, an angry mob in Kasungu descended on Mec lawyers who were meeting presiding officers in the elections, accusing the electoral body of trying to manipulate documents it used in the elections.
Mec’s move raised eyebrows among opposition political parties, among others, accusing the commission of making presiding officers sign fresh documents in relation to the elections.
However, in an interview with Malawi News Wednesday, one of the presiding officers who opted for anonymity said Mec officials were inquiring from them on the use of Tippex and altered documents.
“They were going to areas where complaints were raised to find out why the result sheets were allegedly altered with Tippex and why presiding officers provided duplicated result sheets and not originals.
“So, basically the idea was to compare the result sheets that the complainants have and hear from the presiding officers why they were such incidences that are being raised. And, in the end, we were signing the affidavit,” the source said.
Mec Director of Media and Public Relations Sangwani Mwafulirwa Friday could not pick up our calls despite several attempts.
The revelation comes at a time when the commission has suspended the collection of witness statements from its presiding officers due to security concerns.
During the week, Mwafulirwa said their lawyers would advise them on the way forward.
“Due to the unconducive atmosphere characterised by animosity and violent behaviour towards staff and lawyers, the commission has decided to halt the exercise. We are no longer going to the councils to collect affidavits and witness statements for our case,” he said.
Mwafulirwa said it was unfortunate that those pursuing justice were in the forefront disturbing the very process of seeking justice.
“We feel that, as a party that was sued, we should have been given room to collect witness statements and present them to court,” he said.
Before the commencement of the exercise, Malawi Congress Party (MCP), which alongside UTM is challenging the elections results management, issued a statement warning Mec to stop collecting signatures from the officers.
However, Mwafulirwa, in an earlier interview with The Daily Times, said the officers were not signing any new documents, adding that there was nothing wrong with their lawyers collecting witness statements from their potential witnesses in the case.
MCP and UTM are challenging the presidential elections in which Mec declared President Peter Mutharika the winner.
Mec announced that Mutharika got 1,940,709 votes, representing 38.57 percent of votes cast, while MCP’s Lazarus Chakwera got 1,781,740 votes, representing 35.41 percent.
Former vice-president and also UTM leader Saulos Chilima came third after getting 1,018,369 votes, translating into 20.24 percent of votes counted.
Meanwhile, since last month, civil society organisations, operating under the banner Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), have been organising nationwide protests demanding the resignation of Mec Chairperson Justice Jane Ansah for allegedly running a fraudulent election.
Malawi held tripartite elections on May 21 this year but the polls produced contested results that have thrust the country into turmoil.
HRDC and other groups have also called on the authorities to account for the controversial way in which the elections were conducted.