Malawi Law Society (MLS) has backed calls by the electoral stakeholders to engage independent investigators to assess components of a biometric voter registration kit that went missing in Mwanza and Mzuzu, saying the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) whose credibility is seriously damaged, cannot investigate itself.
During a highly-charged National Elections Consultative Forum (Necof) meeting in Lilongwe last week, MEC officials were taken to task to explain circumstance that led to the missing of the gadget found on a train in Mozambique and a laptop computer as well as other accessories reported missing in Mzuzu.
MEC chairperson Jane Ansah, a Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal judge, failed to convince stakeholder that the missing of equipment has no effect on the registration process and that there is no data lost and some of the delegates demanded her resignation
President of the law society, Alfred Majamanda has since backed call for an independent investigation to assess if the data was not tampered with.
"It is a cardinal principle of law that you cannot be a judge in your own case," said Majamanda.
He said independent investigations should be carried to ascertain the truth in what MEC is claiming.
But Ansah during Necof meeting rejected a proposal for independent investigations as not necessary because data in the two kits was safe.
"I do not think there is any reason why we should demand for an independent forensic audit. Our main concern on the matter is data. And we have reported that data in the two kits is not tampered with," she said.
However, Law Society president said demand for serious investigation in the matter is "vital."
Majamanda also said MEC should name individuals involved in the missing of the equipment and they should face disciplinary measures.
Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) chairperson Steve Duwa also stressed the need to have independent investigators on the matter.
Information and Communications Technology Association of Malawi (Ictam) tipped off MEC to facilitate an independent audit of the recovered equipment to ascertain if it was not tampered with.
Ictam president Wisely Phiri told the local press that it was not complicated to undertake an audit trail of data on the machine that was compromised.
Commenting on the issue, social and political commentator Emily Mkamanga said Malawians are not pleased at all and this is why they have been calling for the resignation of MEC chair Ansah and some of her staff members.
" The gravity of the missing machines can be devastating as it alludes to the fact that it was deliberately done by MEC to rig the votes.MEC must be mindful that any mistakes it makes in managing elections will confirm the general belief that in Malawi and other African countries, voters do not matter. but those who count votes, in this case MEC," stated Mkamaga in a newspaper column.
"So far, the behaviour of MEC seems to indicate that they already know the election results, therefore, they do not care whether or not they might be looking at voters as troublemakers instead of taking them as the main stakeholders in the elections.
"MEC should know better that the 2019 elections are a future for Malawians, therefore, it must not in any way stifle the process. Instead, it must aim at running a credible election as a respect for the people of Malawi," she added.
Political parties are demanding that Ansah should resign for not reporting the incidents to stakeholders, including United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which is offering technical support to the electoral process.