The Malawian Electoral Commission (MEC) has confirmed that it has received assistance from its discredited Zimbabwean counterparts, sparking an outcry from activists and opposition parties.
Reports said members of the opposition stormed out in protest when MEC officials revealed at a National Election Consultative Forum a fortnight ago that they were consulting the Zimbabwe electoral body.
According to reports the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Chairperson, Justice Rita Makarau, also confirmed the consultancy saying MEC and ZEC are 'sister' organizations. Makarau said the Malawians asked for results management forms to ascertain if they suit their process. Results management forms are used to transmit election results to the command center. Reports said ZEC has also agreed to supply MEC with gas lamps and tents.
But opposition parties fear that ZEC is assisting the Malawian body to rig the May 20th polls in favour of President Joyce Banda. The fear is compounded by the fact that ZEC has presided over hotly disputed elections since 2000. Moreover, Banda is one of the African leaders who publicly congratulated Mugabe for 'winning' the July 31st poll, which many believe was rigged.
Reports quoted United Democratic Front Presidential candidate, Atupele Muluzi, querying why MEC should borrow equipment from Zimbabwe when the country bought its own during the previous election. Chris Chisoni from the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace said MEC's association with ZEC 'raises eyebrows' and as a result his organization was 'on the alert.'
Democratic Alliance MP and South African Shadow Minister of Home Affairs, Masizole Mnqasela, said the concern of the Malawian opposition is in order. He said: 'I think Malawians should be embarrassed. This is a huge disgrace and the opposition is right to be angry with their government. ZEC is utterly discredited and has zero credibility. '
Mnqasela, who observed the Zimbabwean elections under the banner of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, said Malawi's move is unacceptable and has sent a wrong signal to the rest of the SADC region. He added: 'If they (MEC) wanted training and any form of assistance they should have come to South Africa because we have a credible electoral system and we have been training many neighboring countries.'
Speculation on the relationship between the two electoral bodies emerged last year, soon after ZEC announced that Mugabe beat MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai with 61 percent of the votes against his rival's 34 percent.
At the time Malawian Foreign Affairs Minister Ephraim Mganda denied the reports saying Lilongwe was only engaged in an 'exchange programme' with the Zimbabwe Homes Affairs department.
The reports then said MEC was consulting both ZEC and the Israeli company, Nikuv International Projects. The controversial Israeli outfit, which specializes in consultancy over a range of diversified projects, is widely believed to have assisted ZEC to rig last year's poll on behalf of Mugabe.
Despite the African Union endorsing Zimbabwe's election as 'free, honest and credible' few, if any, believe that Mugabe won the poll. To this date ZEC and the Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede have not made public the electronic copy of the voters roll that was used, as required by law. Last year Makarau told ZAPU leader Dumiso Dabengwa that the electronic copy will not be available anytime soon.