Almost a year after some of the electoral material loaned to the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) was destroyed in a fire, the latter has not yet received any official communication from its counterpart.
By Phyllis Mbanje
According to the Malawian media, gas cylinders and lamps and ballot boxes that MEC had borrowed during its tripartite elections last year, were reportedly destroyed during a fire that gutted the commission’s warehouses in Lilongwe.
However, MEC was still to communicate officially to ZEC about the incident and how much material was damaged.
“ZEC did not and has to date not received any written or official communication from the Malawi Electoral Commission confirming that part of its loaned equipment was burnt in a fire during the May Tripartite elections,” said the chairperson of the commission, Justice Rita Makarau.
This is despite the fact that the incident was covered extensively by the Malawian media.
Speaking to Nyasa Times at the time, MEC’s chief elections officer Willie Kalonga confirmed that 1 500 ballot boxes had been destroyed along with several gas cylinders and lamps.
Prior to the elections, MEC borrowed 8 452 gas cylinders and 9 500 gas lamps and tents from Zimbabwe.
It was alleged that 933 lamps, 257 gas cylinders, 13 tent-roofs and 55 tent sides borrowed from ZEC, were lost in the fire.
The organisation decided to borrow material from ZEC because they had been receiving complaints from stakeholders that lighting system used in polling stations was poor and would give room for manipulation of votes.
The cause of the fire was never established although allegations were thrown around that it was the work of arson.
This was more so considering that some disputed votes were kept in that particular warehouse, raising suspicion that it was not an accident.
ZEC however was optimistic that if required to return the materials, MEC would be able to rise to the occasion.
“MEC had taken out insurance over the loaned equipment and in the event that the equipment was indeed burnt in the fire and MEC is called upon to make good the loss, ZEC is confident that MEC will do so,” said Makarau.
The Commission, which has received back part of the loaned equipment from MEC, says it was common practice of electoral management bodies in the region to share both information and equipment during election time upon request.