Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has pushed National Registration Bureau (NRB) to intensify civil registration ahead of the 2025 General Elections voter registration exercise starting September 16 2024.
MEC chairperson Chifundo Kachale said this yesterday at Parliament Building in Lilongwe during a meeting with the Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises Committee of Parliament and NRB aimed at providing progress on the NRB registration process, challenges being faced and how voter identification and national identity cards are functioning in the country.
He said it is incumbent on the NRB’s efforts to ensure that all eligible voters are in the National Registration Information System and are issued with the acceptable proof of civil registration before the voter registration exercise starts.
Kachale, a judge of the High Court of Malawi, said: “The commission is only registering as a voter a person who holds a national identity card issued by the NRB.
“This means that at the time of registering voters, the commission will only accept national identity cards as proof of registration of national registration with NRB. For 2025 General Elections, the voter registration exercise has been planned for September to November 2024 as outlined in our operational plan.”
Under the current electoral law, a person can only be placed on the voters’ roll upon presentation of proof of registration with the NRB.
Touching on the 2025 election budget, Kachale said the electoral body needs about $187 million (over K190 billion) in three tranches, with provisions in the 2023/24 financial year, up to the 2025/26 financial years.
He said: “For this financial year, we had requested about K53.9 billion and K48.9 billion was appropriated. So far, according to our budget projections, the resources have been made available.
“We will be making different procurements, and as of today, we need about K28 billion in forex to procure different equipment, including IT equipment that will be useful for the voter registration exercise. We are engaging Treasury to make sure that those resources are made available.”
Taking his turn, NRB Principal Secretary Mphatso Sambo acknowledged the urgency of the matter, and said the bureau has procured new printers which will start operating this month, to produce 1 200 cards every eight hours, an improvement from the previous ones which printed 250.
He said the bureau is committed to issuing every Malawian with an identity card, adding those who were missed in the first and second phases of the mass registration exercise in Dowa, Chitipa, Balaka, Mulanje, Karonga and Thyolo districts, among others, will soon be registered.
“We have purchased additional printers, new printers. We have also trained our staff technicians in South Africa to know how to repair the printers.
“We are also working in shifts day and night to ensure that we are printing more cards than before. We still have a backlog of unprinted cards which will be in Malawi soon,” said Sambo.
The NRB is expected to register 1.5 million people turning 16 years by 2023, and will form part of first-time voters as they are expected to be 18 by 2025.
Committee member Yeremiah Chihana wondered if there is a law which could be amended considering that the onus is on the NRB for MEC to be able to register people who have national IDs.
In August this year, the European Union (EU) unveiled a three million euro (about K3.5 billion) contribution to the 2025 Elections Basket Fund through its flagship Malawi Democratic Governance Project.
EU Ambassador Rune Skinnebach said the fund will support three components, namely bolstering the capacity of MEC, Malawi Police Service and civil society organisations to engage in the electoral process and contribute to a well-managed, inclusive and transparent electoral process.