Professor Dr Abiti Joyce Befu and us, members of her delegation, agree with President Peter Arthur Mutharika (PAM) that the election is over. The fighting is over. Life must go on. After all, as Evison Matafale sings, in a democracy there are no losers since both camps take their seats in the parliament to run the country together. Opposition is perhaps not the best way to describe the minority. Call them the Minority as the Americans do.
Life must go on, is the decision the people of Nsipe in the Republic of Mangoni have taken. Their dreams of a Ndata, a public university, a stadium, and a Casa Rei are dashed. The consolation is that for the next five years, Malawi’s second citizen, second lady, second uncles, second aunties, second fathers and mothers in law and, of course, second children will be from Mangoni again. Mangoni did not get the first prize but the second prize is satisfying.
Courtesy of social media, the 2019 election exposed our electoral management weaknesses by providing evidence of what would have been papered over. In previous elections, complaints about results being doctored were treated as mere rumour but this year the public, the voters, got some photographic evidence of result sheet tipexed by officers who had been provided with neither rubber or metal erasers nor the infamous Tipex, borther to blanco. This is something the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) should think seriously about so that the good name of the commission is not rolled in the mud again. Why tipped results accepted?
Election after election we have relied on teachers to manage election centres and handle tabulation of votes. In some cases, they could not even add up simple figures resulting in tipexation of result forms. The Nsipeans are asking if it is wise to still trust the teachers. Rumours of them being bribed to change poll results abound. MEC should find it wise to also investigate this allegation to sanitise our future elections. Instead of deploying compromised and untrustworthy and easy to bribe officers, such as teachers, we should try engaging university students, nurses, and agricultural extension officers.
Commissioner Justice Jane Ansah made a poignant confession during one of the press conferences to the effect that we Malawians, superstitious and suspicious as usual, refused the adoption of a biometric voting mechanism. This would have helped in ensuring that every vote got entered correctly and totals made automatically as the votes came in.
In the DRC, voting was done using the biometric system while the paper ballot was ticked and kept by the election management body just in case of electronic failure. MEC and the Malawi government should prepare for this kind of voting and vote tallying for the May 21 2024. (Yes May 21 again)! In this electronic century where even simple field research data gathering uses mobile phones and data are sent directly to servers in home office, use of manual data entry is sounds outdated and should be avoided.
The MEC tried to be as transparency as is humanly possible in a country where transparency, accountability and honesty are rare virtues (even in our Judiciary). We were informed in good time and where the appointed time was not observed, we were calmed down with an apology. What shocked us, at the Nsipe parallel tally centre, was how the name of a presidential candidate have been transferred to a remote island polling centre and then the same presidential candidate’s votes were not added. And, we also wondered how the MEC could not have been honest enough that it had also received madando from the MCP. These made us feel something was cooking up somewhere in the house of elections.
Our fears were arrayed later when the MEC announced that all the madando had been resolved (and signed off) with the participating candidates and parties. Well and good. All that remains now is for us, the five million plus voters, the largest stakeholders in the most recent past elections, to be given the report of how each dando was resolved. The Madando report is important for us to be prove that all the 147 complaints, madando, were addressed before the election results were announced and there is no outstanding issue at MEC.
We are waiting.