The torching of a warehouse in Lilongwe which contained ballot boxes at the centre of a legal dispute of the election results, has ignited fears there could have been a lot of cheating at all levels during the May 20 polls.

Reading like fiction from a thriller novel, the events leading to the burning of the warehouse started when Bently Namasasu of the DPP, won a Lilongwe constituency by a paltry 98 votes, beating MCP’s Ulemu Msungama.

Msungama went to court after the poll winner was declared. The court ruled that the votes should be counted. Namasasu also went to court, stopping the process. The court says the case should be reviewed and both sides should fight it out.

A week later the heavily protected warehouse housing the ballot boxes is gutted. The Malawi Electoral Commission, already fighting an image battle after the chaotic poll of May 20, is disgusted. It boldly calls this incident arson and orders police to do a proper probe.
All accusing fingers point at the ruling party, which in its wisdom thought the best way to protect itself from the shame if the results were recounted is to gut the warehouse. Despite a presence of 10 PMF guys, two security guards from a private firm, and two monitors from the MCP, the warehouse was still gutted.

Complicating the issue is that NIB, without telling MEC, also had its own security personnel guarding the warehouse. Why did NIB, headed by Nicholas Dausi, throw itself into this scandal? Why?

Why did MEC, knowing that the ballot boxes were a subject of sensitivity, not think of transferring the materials to another safe location? Who is not thinking? Does MEC have security advisors worth the salt?

With this gutting, the high court case will be thrown into more confusion as without anybody being held responsible, charged, tried and sentenced, the court may have to take a new route inorder to settle the original case: of recounting the votes, which are not there anymore because they were burnt to ashes.

If I were a judge—mark my words—if I were a judge—I would order a re-run: Msungama vs Namasasu. But because I am not a judge, I would wait for the court process to take its due course and whatever verdict is reached, I will go for it.

My fear is that a recount would open a can of worms for the DPP because there would a flurry of petitions for a recount in constituencies where losers think they should not have lost. It’s all tough lessons for democracy.

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