BLANTYRE-(MaraviPost)—Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Chairperson, Justice Chifundo Kachale, has assured Malawians that their vote will be safe in the forthcoming Fresh Presidential Election (FPE), saying the new commissioners have a legacy to protect and are to deliver accordingly.
Kachale was speaking yesterday in Lilongwe during a media briefing on the electoral body’s preparedness for the much touted first ever fresh presidential election that was ordered by the Constitutional Court after nullifying the 2019 election on grounds of widespread irregularities.
Kachale said it is their wish to have the election on 23rd June though there some logistical challenges that if not well handled they might seek an extension through a legal process.
“On Tuesday 9th June 2020 the Commission took oaths before the Honourable Chief Justice in Blantyre. Later the same day we received communication from the office of the Clerk of Parliament advising that parliament had passed a Resolution appointing the 23rd June 2020 as the date for the Fresh Presidential Election. As you might well know, on the 11th of June 2020 the Commission Gazetted 23rd June 2020 as the Polling Date, subject to change on the basis of the legally established processes,” said Kachale.
On printing of ballot papers, Kachale said the Commission already issued an authority to the printer to commence performance of the assignment after it was communicated to the electoral body by the Printing company that “unless authority to commence printing was granted by close of business that day, I would not be in a position to actually make delivery of the ballots ordered in time for the Gazetted Polling Date.”
He, however, indicated that, in the context of Covid-19 pandemic, both the Commission and contesting candidates will not be able to monitor the printing process as per requirement in light of the non-availability of commercial flights and the public health requirements for a minimum of 14 days’ quarantine both at the destination of printing and upon returning home.
It was also disclosed that the Commission has a deficit of K8.7 billion as Parliament only appropriated K29.6 billion from the proposed K38.3 billion.
Initially, the budget was pegged at K34 billion but it was later adjusted upwards in order to accommodate Covid-19 preventive measures which called for more resources for procurement of materials.
Kachale bemoaned the untimely disbursement of funds from the Treasury, saying it has impacted negatively the operations of the Commission in preparing for the election.
“The disbursement of funds has been a challenge: it has not always been timely. For example, training of Presiding Officers could not start on 8th June 2020 as scheduled due to funding delays. This was then shifted to 13th June 2020 following communication from The Treasury on 8th June 2020 that funds had been provided. Though there are some persisting challenges with regards to accessing those funds arrangements have been made to allow the trainings to commerce today (13th June 2020),” he said,
Responding to a question on the inclusion of the former commissioners, Linda Kunje and Jean Mathanga, Kachale said he has confidence in all the commissioners and that they will deliver accordingly.
“It is not my jurisdiction to speak evil of my colleagues, the two old Commissioners (Kunje and Mathanga). Trust us we will deliver accordingly, we have no desire to fail. I have full confidence in my fellow 6 commissioners. Please do not drive us into history to judge us, we have no responsibility for the past events, we have the integrity and names to protect,” Kachale said.
He added: “We are professionals in our own right, we have our own legacy to protect, I believe everyone who accepted this responsibility is cognisant of the responsibility they have taken.
“This nation is functioning on levels of suspicion and mistrust that is making it impossible to do anything. Give us a chance. Do not drag us into history. Ultimately we will be responsible for our actions .”
The Chairperson further appealed to Presidential candidates in the forth coming fresh Presidential election to be advocates of peace.