Unknown people at midnight on Monday set ablaze the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) warehouse in Lilongwe, destroying, among others, ballot boxes and election materials for the disputed Lilongwe City South East Constituency.
The warehouse that was gutted is located next to the Central Government Stores and Government Print warehouse whose contents were also extensively damaged by the fire.
The warehouse contained about 1 500 ballot boxes, gas cylinders and gas lamps borrowed from Zimbabwe, generators, furniture and stationery.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) monitor Thokozani Kanthiti and some security guards around the premises who witnessed the incident told The Nation that about four people who allegedly identified themselves as governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) monitors went to the scene around midnight informing them that they were part of DPP monitors who wanted to help in guarding the ballot boxes.
According to Kanthiti and the guards, one of the alleged arsonists claimed that he was from the National Intelligence Services (NIS).
Said Kanthiti: “Soon after the four people who said were part of monitoring team had left us, they went behind the building and all of a sudden we heard an explosion, there was fire and when my colleagues and I went round the back, the guys hurriedly left and the gas cylinders started exploding.”
Kanthiti said the suspected arsonists jumped into a Toyota Carina with a red registration number plate and left the scene without being apprehended by the police present at the warehouse.
But an NIS official who asked for anonymity distanced his office from the incident.
DPP secretary general Jean Kalirani said she was not aware of the fire and thanked the reporter for the information.
MCP spokesperson Jessie Kabwila said in an interview yesterday that she was shocked by the development and was surprised that it was the same government which blocked the presidential recount and then parliamentary recount for Lilongwe City South East.
MEC spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa, in a press statement, said there was extensive damage to the property and material in the warehouse although the Lilongwe City Council fire department was called in immediately to put off the fire.
He said MEC was treating the incident as a normal fire incident until the cause is established.
On the other hand, United Democratic Front (UDF) has expressed suspicion of the fire.
Said UDF spokesperson Ken Ndanga: “We are very suspicious of the inferno which is a big blow to justice. We suspect there is a grand conspiracy to suppress the truth considering that there is a court order to recount votes in one of the constituencies in Lilongwe. We call upon the police to be professional and investigate the matter so that truth comes out.”