Ballot papers for the May 20 Tripartite Elections arrived in the country at the weekend and the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has entrusted the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) and the Malawi Police Service (MPS) with the responsibility of providing 24-hour security.
MEC chairperson Maxon Mbendera has since asked the security forces to arrest any person not credited to provide security around the warehouse sheltering the delicate papers.
His order followed requests by some parties that witnessed the arrival of the first lot of the ballot papers at Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) cargo terminal on Saturday evening that they be allowed to provide security.
Said Mbendera: “Are you telling me that MDF and MPS are not capable of providing security to the ballot papers? Since when have Malawians lost trust in these two entities? There is no reason to doubt them and, as MEC, we are confident the ballot papers are secure as the warehouse will remain closed until the time for distribution.
“So, no one is allowed to be around the warehouse in the name of providing security to the ballot papers. I am calling on the police to arrest whosoever is seen around the area in the name of security.”
Mbendera, who is a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, said MDF will also be responsible for the transportation of the ballot papers to different areas across the country.
“The ballots will remain at a warehouse within the cargo area of the airport [in Lilongwe] until May 17 when we start dispatching them to district councils with the MDF providing security. It is our plan that by May 18, all ballot papers should be at district headquarters, ready for distribution to the voting areas,” he said.
Apart from political parties, other electoral stakeholders such as civil society organisations (CSOs), observer missions and heads of United Nations (UN) agencies in the country witnessed the arrival of the first consignment comprising all 400 pallets for the presidential ballots, 20 for constituencies and three for the visually impaired.
Yesterday, the remaining pallets for 173 constituencies and the whole lot for Local Government Elections arrived in the afternoon.
MEC has chartered an Ethiopian Airlines plane to transport the 24 million ballot papers printed by RenForm, a Johannesburg-based private company in the printing industry.