By Duncan Mlanjira
The Biometric registration kits that went missing and was recovered in Mozambique and that was stolen in Mzuzu were not tampered with and were not being used by Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) for voter registration during the time they went missing.
This has been verified by political parties under Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) who have concluded the investigation they were mandated to carry out on the Biometric Kit 1962 found in Mozambique together with Kit 1241 that was stolen in Mzuzu.
“We are satisfied that Kit 1962 which was recovered in Mozambique was indeed not being used by MEC for voter registration [and] we are further convinced that both machines in questions have not compromised data and the voters roll in any way,” says a statement released by the CMD investigation team.
“While we cannot establish the motives behind the incidents, we have every reason to believe that the system this far has got internal safeguards that can satisfactorily handle eventualities without compromising the integrity of the process.
UFile picture of voting process”Though these incidents remain unfortunate, while investigations are continuing, we are of the view that the matter can be rested, deriving from the fact that the voters register and the registration figures has not produced any alarming disparities, using 2014 as a base year.”
The statement says after MEC had explained of the missing and found kit 1962, political parties under the CMD agreed to carry out this investigation after observing that trust on MEC had been lost and needed to be restored.
“The parties observed that when the kit went missing, the fact that MEC did not inform the stakeholders of the incident, inadvertently created a perception that MEC was hiding information.
“The parties further observed that the way the issue was handled and the comments made by some politicians and political parties may have aggravated the situation, cultivating negative perceptions and the negative perceptions, if unchecked, may ultimately lead to voter apathy.”
After a meeting with MEC and CMD in Lilongwe on 15 November, 2018, it was agreed that there be an independent audit/verification of the missing kit and that the political parties should avail their IT experts to have access to kits in question and examine them.
The IT experts were to check the integrity of the data whether it was changed or tampered with after the last known date of data entry and also to identify the vulnerability of MEC system.
The verification team comprised directors of elections Dr. Ben Phiri from Democratic Progressive Party; Dr. Elias Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party; Lawrence Bisika from United Party; UDF NEC member Charles Chikuwo and supported by IT specialists John Khofi from DPP, Mphatso Sulumba from UDF, Kenneth Chipeta from PP, Daud Suleman from MCP and Isaac Chakhadza from Aford.
“After running queries on MEC’s database using the Kit 1962 found in Mozambique to see if there were people registered using it after it went missing, no result came out which means the machine was not on MEC’s grid.
“This result proved that the machine was indeed not being used for voter registration because no footprint of the kit was found on MEC’s database.
“After running queries using kit 1241 ID [that was stolen in Mzuzu], the results showed that it last registered a registrant on 12th October, 2018 at 13.54hrs and further showed that data was uploaded on to the server on 13th October, 2018 at 09.06hrs.
“The results showed that while the registration work continued, the machine in question went off grid, and has never appeared in the MEC database since.”
The political parties under CMD concludes by appealing to all political parties to avoid making careless and sensational statements regarding this issue as this may end up raising false alarm about potential vote rigging, discouraging voters in the process and leading to voter apathy.
“We would like to appeal to the media to exercise responsible journalism and avoid further sensationalising the matter and escalating it, as this may end up confusing people, instil fear and mistrust in the electoral process.
“Finally, we would like to appeal to the Malawi Electoral Commission that should similar incident happen in future, it should strive to promptly communicate to the stakeholders to avoid suspicions which may dent smooth electoral process,” says the statement signed by secretaries general Greseldar Jeff wa Jeffrey from DPP; Eisenhower Mkaka from MCP; Ibrahim Matola from PP; Kandi Padambo from UDF; Aford administrative secretary Grace Chupa and CMD Executive Director Kizito Tenthani.