Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Development Challenges Facing Mwanza, Neno Districts

White elephants derail Mwanza, Neno development agenda



Sub-Traditional Authority Govati of Mwanza does not remember the last time he saw a wild elephant in the district. Yet, every time he steps out of his house, another type of elephant awaits him: The white one!


“We have a lot of white elephants in Mwanza. From Thambani, which falls in my area, and other faraway places, we simply have so many of these. Politics seems to have perpetuated the trend,” Govati says.


Of course, he is referring to uncompleted projects, and not necessarily elephants with ‘white’ skin. After all, according to www.marylandzoo.org, elephants only have “gray” and “wrinkled” skin. The website adds that elephants are known as pachyderms, along with hippos and rhinos, a name derived from the Latin words for “thick” and “skin” (‘derm’) to literally mean “thick-skin”.


To strengthen his case, Govati cites uncompleted houses marked for teachers and healthcare service delivery workers.


“We have a situation at Thambani (Trading Centre) where two houses meant for health workers have remained uncompleted for years. Again, at Kalanga Primary School, a teacher’s house built through the efforts of the Area Development Committee (ADC) has not reached window level some three, four years after the project begun,” Govati says.


Govati says other abandoned projects include a gravity water project that has remained a pipedream even after the commencement of ground work.


Unfortunately, Govati’s subjects are not the only ones affected as Inkosi Kanduku can testify of having his fair share of white elephants.


Kanduku says one of the hardest hit sectors is education, where learners have to cover a distance of between five and 10 kilometres to get to the nearest learning facility because the schools in their area do not meet minimum standards.


“For example, we have the case of Futsa Community Day Secondary School. Construction of a school block, courtesy of the European Union, started and completed in 2009 but, up to now, nobody knows when the school will open its doors to our children because there is no tangible progress. In fact, some people are using the school block as a hall,” Kanduku says.


But the Ngoni chief puts his foot down on suggestions that education officials should open the school to learners, saying it is better for community members to hold their breaths until the facility meets minimum standards other than expose their children to a deplorable learning environment.


However, the decision to keep the block closed to learners has come at a cost as learners from neighbouring areas such as Tulonkhondo have to cover a distance of more than eight kilometres to access education facilities at Thawale Community Day Secondary School in the district. However, the forum for District stakeholders adopted the proposal by Councilors Moses Bingalasi Walota and Lloyd Gosho and T/A Govati’s proposals to open the school for forms 1 and 2 while communities contribute sand and mould bricks for the remaining blocks and teachers’ houses. The two Mwanza West Councillors further pledged to present the proposal to their MP Hon. Davis Katsonga and that they facilitate the use of the Constituency Development Fund to complete the school block besides other sources of funds facilitated by the District Council time to time.







Stitch in time

Fortunately for Mwanza residents, Dan Church Aid, with support from Tilitonse Fund, has come to their rescue, thanks to the ‘Collaborative Action in Strengthening Local Governance Project’ being implemented by the Association of Progressive Women (APW).


Concerned with increased cases of abandoned projects, APW invited community members to consultative forums and mobilisation meetings in a quest to shape community perspectives and understanding around key development issues between the month of February and March this year. These efforts culminated in a number of community dialogues taking place with various community leaders in following up the unfinished or stalled projects.


“Among other things, we discovered that there is lack of coordination at various levels of government, which suffocates patriotism and community ownership to project implementation. There is also little coordination between the Central Government and District Councils in drawing up development plans and annual budgets,” Grace Moyo, the project officer, says, adding:


“There are also inadequate resources for councils to help build capacity of the Village Development Committees (VDC) and ADCs, training of traditional leaders on their new roles in democratic governance, coupled with deficiency in policy analysis, advocacy and low education levels. Deficiencies in coordination between these levels of governance are clearly demonstrated in the manner in which communities handled all these stalled and unfinished projects.”


Moyo observes that citizen influence has been generally low with their inputs having only peripheral effects in effecting positive change.


Her sentiments are echoed by programme manager, Noel Msiska, who cites a case in Kanduku’s and Mlauli areas.


Msiska says community members, through the VDC, proposed the construction of a bridge over a drift at Mkwilira River in a bid to address mobility problems faced by the pupils and residents around Dzomodya, Mbirizi, Mtaya, Butao and Kumpakiza villages during the rainy season.


He said the proposal was accepted by the Neno District Council and construction materials started arriving at the project site after community members had contributed sand and stones. The Council, he said, recruited its own contractor without thorough consultations with the ADC and VDC and the project took off.


“However, the ADC members, who were providing oversight monitoring, observed that, out of 50 bags of cement meant for the project, only 15 were used in electing the foundation of the bridge. As a result, construction works stalled and the communities still suspect that the rest of the construction materials, particularly cement, were taken up by the contractor who just left the project at foundation stage and they can hardly locate him. They wonder that the council is not holding him accountable for the unfinished project,” says Msiska.


Apart from these projects, the other notable projects that have been unnecessarily delayed or stalled in Mwanza and Neno altogether include the Ziyaya Chidole School Project, Kunenekude Police Unit construction, the community ground construction project and Muwanga Okhota Schools Development initiative where community members proposed the construction of a modern school block; Chidokowe Primary School, a Standard 1 to 6 learning facility that has only one block; Golden Village clean water project; Chifunga Police Unit; respectively among others.


Msiska contends that challenges faced by Mwanza and Neno residents are not unique to the districts, raising concerns that failure to complete projects seems to be a nationwide malaise.


He suggests that the Malawi government should engage an expert team to conduct an assessment study on all uncompleted projects in Malawi and make recommendations on how government can recover costs from such projects. He adds that legislation and the funding mechanism systems of the Constituency Development Fund and the Local Development Fund should also be reviewed.


“There is also need to implement measures such as increasing access to information at district level, simplifying reports to give all residents the opportunity to offer scrutiny, promoting open bidding for contracts, using agreed monitoring tools and promoting equal presentation of local leaders at district level to bring about transparency and accountability at all levels of governance,” says Msiska.


He adds that there is need to build the capacity of village monitoring committees in project monitoring, budget tracking and governance for them to be able to demand satisfaction of development projects within their localities, as well as reviewing the Local Government Act and Decentralization Policy.







Recurrent business


Mwanza District Commissioner, Gift Lapozo, says, under normal circumstances, councils act as engines of development by creating policies, mobilizing technical and financial resources in their bid to ensure that resources are well-utilised in advancing the development agenda.


Lapozo also says, under normal circumstances, public projects are not supposed to hit a snag on the basis that Members of Parliament (MP), or councilors, who initiated them have been voted out of office.


“Government is a growing concern: It doesn’t change; if anything, it’s the faces that change. So, if the government is a growing concern, why do development projects initiated by MPs stall once they are voted out of office and yet we say development derives from the people? It’s like kugwiritsa anthu ntchito yopanda malipiro (letting people toil in vain),” laments Lapozo.


Lapozo expresses concern that some stalled projects started as way back as 2010.


“These development projects just need funding. Piecemeal development approaches are catalysts for poverty, illiteracy. Let’s find out and discuss the way forward so that the newly-elected ward councilors can work smoothly. It’s time to share, to rectify problems and complete all stalled projects,” Lapozo says.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

MESSAGE OF GOODWILL TO MALAWIANS ABROAD BY HIS EXCELLENCY PROF. ARTHUR PETER MUTHARIKA, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF MALAWI, ON THE OCCASION COMMEMORATING GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY OF MALAWI’S INDEPENDENCE

MESSAGE OF GOODWILL TO MALAWIANS ABROAD BY HIS EXCELLENCY PROF. ARTHUR PETER MUTHARIKA,
PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF MALAWI, ON THE OCCASION COMMEMORATING GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY OF MALAWI’S INDEPENDENCE









Ministry of Foreign Affairs and

International Cooperation

Lilongwe 3

6th July, 2014




My fellow Malawians wherever you are

Today is a memorable day in the history of our country. It is a milestone that we have clocked fifty (50) years since the attainment of our independence, and for this reason, I congratulate you all.



The past fifty (50) years have been a long winding road, teaching us great lessons and at the same time, making great strides and achievements. At the time of our independence in 1964, Late Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, Father and Founder of the nation, laid the solid foundation that this country rests upon today and instilled in us the spirit of hard work and unity. We immediately embraced one-party rule, and as we continued with our political journey, in 1993 under Dr. Bakili Muluzi, we ushered in a new political dispensation of multi-party democracy. It gives me immense pleasure that our democracy is fast maturing, and that we are a good example to other countries in the region and beyond. In the twenty (20) years of our democracy, we have successfully conducted five (5) elections, all of which have been unanimously declared free, fair, peaceful, transparent and credible.



Along the way, between 2005 and 2009, Malawi achieved food security, thanks to sound agriculture policies of Late Prof. Bingu wa Mutharika administration. During this period, Malawi could not only feed itself, but had enough food reserves to serve other countries in the region. We also recall with pride, that it was during this same period, when Malawi witnessed the highest economic growth and stability.




Countrymen and women,
I take it as no mean achievement that in the first fifty (50) years of our independence, Malawians have had a female President, Dr. Joyce Banda. We commend the Late Prof. Bingu wa Mutharika for having taken the initiative and appointed her as the first ever female Vice President for our country. We will, therefore, go down in history as the first country in the SADC and second on the whole African continent, to have had a female president. This is ‘walking the talk’ of ensuring gender equality and women empowerment that is also one the UN Millennium Development Goals.



Above all, Ladies and Gentlemen, in the fifty years Malawians have proved themselves to the international community that we are a peace-loving, warm and friendly people, and no wonder we are referred to as the Warm Heart of Africa. We transact our political business amicably and diplomatically, and good neighbourliness is an important tenet of our foreign policy.



We have also demonstrated to the whole world that we are a peace loving nation by successfully holding in May, 2014 the Tripartite Elections, which despite logistical problems was acknowledged as free, fair, and credible.



My fellow Malawians,

Going forward, let us embark on the next fifty (50) years with renewed vigour and commitment to hard work, ethics, peace and unity for our country’s sustainable development. In Biblical terms, the number 50 symbolizes deliverance or freedom from a burden. Let us, therefore, join hands and have one common purpose of building our nation and lifting ourselves from poverty, which is by far our nation’s greatest enemy today. As a start, I have appointed a lean Cabinet that can be sustainable considering the level of our economy. My administration is also embarking on the civil and public sector reform, to ensure efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery. This, coupled with sound economic policies that we will soon be implementing, will translate into prosperity and tangible development that we all are eager to experience.



We count on your support in taking our country on a development path. I am aware that most of you have not effectively contributed to this noble agenda in the past, partly due to restrictive policies that we back home implement. I would like to assure you that my Government has created a conducive environment to enable you play your part in the socio-economic development of the country, through your remittances, investments and skills transfer. I encourage a spirit of patriotism from you our bretheren, so that as you live in the Diaspora, your home country Malawi should feature highly at the back of your mind.



Once again, congratulations, and I wish you all God’s blessings as we commemorate our Golden Independence anniversary.


Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Reflection on 50 Years of Malawi's Independence




It is clear, after 50 years of independence, that the national development script was not designed to roll out like this.


In spite of the high hopes that independence would come with its array of attractive trappings, Malawi has turned out to be a begrimed landscape replete with all the miseries that come with underdevelopment.


May be the new nation of Malawi was just carried away by the notion of independence without being thoroughly prepared to embrace its ideals. Indeed, independence must have come abruptly for those who envisaged a land flowing with milk and honey at the proclamation of the word ‘Independence’.





The roots


Consider this: In one moment on July 5, 1964, Nyasaland struggling in the dark shadows of colonialism and, in the next moment, on July 6, 1964, it wore the cloak of a new state after the nationalists- led by Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda- flipped a switch in the dark and Malawi was free.


Indications are that the nationalists might have been following a pattern that started in Ghana. After all, these were educated men and women who were well-versed with affairs on the international stage. May be some background of nationalism may help.


Nationalism, according to the book, ‘Nationalism through State-Constructed Symbols: The Case of National Anthems’, says modern views of nation and nationalism were influenced both by Liberalism and Marxism and underpinned by general ideas of social evolution and human progress,acknowledging that “The discourse of nationalism is distinctively modern”.


It is argued to have originated in the 17th century British rebellion against monarchy, the 18th Century struggle of the New World elites against Iberian colonialism, the French Revolution of 1789 and the German reaction to that revolution.


For some commentators, such nineteenth century German writers as Fichte, Herder and Schleiermacher are the true nationalists; for some others, France is the birthplace of nationalism and Rousseau is its first theorist; for, yet others, nationalism is a universal phenomenon to be found in every settled community,” reads part of the book, which was written by authors from University of Western Macedonia, Florina, Greece.


So, it’s either that the nationalists in Malawi picked a leaf from Germany or France, or maybe they just awakened the dormant nationalistic spirit in the settled community that was the people of Nyasaland. And with it (independence), Malawi adopted those great symbols of a nation state: The national Anthem, local currency, national flag, coat of arms, territorial boundaries, among others.


Somehow, these symbols of a nation state had to mean something. The national anthem had to mean something. The national currency had to mean something. The coat of arms had to mean something. The territorial boundaries had to mean something: Something in the shape of a present we are all proud of.


Malawi was born.




Ragged path


Unfortunately, Malawi’s 50 years of independence have not been all they were meant to be. Nobody fully understands how the song of hope and freedom has faded under the blazing sun of the reality.


Consequently, instead of extending our ideals of freedom, complete with feeder roads and more infrastructures, we have only succeeded in reinforcing the contrast between pre-independence futuristic reverie and harsh reality. Slow progress in all aspects of life- economy, water development, sanitation, agriculture, to name a few- strains the limits of our hope and anxiety.


In fact, it is like Malawi discarded Britain and embraced a new master: The Breton woods institutions. When Malawi discards International Monetary Fund prescriptions, for instance, she creates a gnawing uncertainty about her economic future. A good case in point is when former president, the late Bingu wa Mutharika, refused to devalue the Kwacha.


So, in a way, Malawi has had a chastening encounter with post-independence reality, prompting the need for an unabashed national reevaluation of our nationhood and what it means to be independent. We have to, tightly, weave together a future we shall all be proud of.


What is freedom when Malawi has no international bus depot? If I may ask. What is the meaning of freedom when the country still uses the slow-pace train? What about corruption that has become endemic in the private and public sector?


Former president Joyce Banda, speaking at the Malawi National Consultative Conference on ‘Malawi at 50 and Prospects for The Next 50 Years’ on March 5 this year, summed the extent of our misery when she said:


Since independence, Malawi has implemented different strategies including the Development Policies (Devpols), Malawi Poverty Reduction Strategies Paper (MPRSP), Vision 2020, Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS), and the current Malawi Growth and Development Strategy II (MGDS II), and re-emphasized by the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP).



We have had mixed experiences in the implementation and outcome of these development plans. Some have succeeded while others have failed. For example, the per capita income stood at $381 in 2012 which is still far from the $1000 envisioned for the year 2020.



At this point in time, with only six years to go before Vision 2020 expires, the situation is not much different from the one just described. About 50.7% of Malawians are still poor with little or no access to basic needs such as food, medical care, education, housing, water and sanitation.”


The President was spot on. With the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) II expiring in 2016 and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) ending in 2015, we cannot say Malawi has attained her goals.


Banda rightly concluded: “I feel it is time we revisited our way of doing things, examine how we have implemented our development strategies; where we have gone wrong and think through what we can do as a nation to go forward with much focus on the improvement of people’s lives.”





Hero worship


One of the reasons for our failure to make the best out of independence could be hero-worship. A subtle examination of the praise heaped on our leaders since independence leads to discovery of an aggravated inferiority complex stereotype. That is why we worship our leaders.


The problems started soon after independence. The Cabinet Crisis of 1964 is a good case in point. The rush to succeed, it seems, transformed pre-independence nationalist buddies into post-independence enemies: more less like friends in day time, nighttime enemies.


In the end, we have few things to point at as points of our success. Instead, we have more challenges than anticipated. A battered economy. Depleted drug chests. Leaking houses. Long unemployment queues: That’s all there is to Malawi’s 50 years of independence.


It is as if attaining independence in July 1964 stripped away myth-laden stereotypes about a Republic that would have its path to prosperity paved; instead, it (independence) exposed underlying complexities. That is why the nationalists’ initial aversion to colonialism did not grow into a warm regard for the post-independence period.


Trading on Malawians infatuation with thinness, corrupt and self-serving leaders have taken Malawi towards the path of self-annihilation without showing the slightest signs of shame. And, yet, the majority of the population still scrapes for the crumbs of the economic cake.


To move forward, Malawians must abandon their leader-worshipping tendencies. As British literati, Aldous Huxley (who studied English Literature at Oxford), aptly observed: “The attribution of personal characteristics to collectivities, to geographical expressions, to institutions, is a source, as we shall see, of endless confusions in political thought, of innumerable political mistakes and crimes.


The danger with this line of thinking, warned Huxley, is that, “The personified and deified nation becomes, in the minds of the individuals, a kind of enlargement of themselves.


But, sometimes, it is not the citizens who perpetuate this line of thinking; the leaders themselves do, mainly by pretending to speak for the nation through their utterances. In the end, na├»ve citizens fail to make the distinction between the leader’s own words, and the words produced by a nation through its constitutional provisions.


In which case, according to Huxley, “A nation, then, may be more than a mere abstraction, may possess some kind of real existence apart from its constituent members. But there is no reason to suppose that it is a person; indeed, there is every reason to suppose that it isn’t. Those who speak as though it were a person- and some go further than this and speak as though it were a personal god- do so because it is to their interest as egotists to make precisely this mistake. In the case of the ruling class these interests are in part material.”


Indeed, French jurist, Leon Duguit, suggested that the personification of the nation as a sacred being, different from and superior to its constituent members was merely “A way of imposing authority by making people believe it is an authority de jure and not merely de facto”.


Again, the problem, in the words of Huxley, is that, “By habitually talking of the nation as though it were a person with thoughts, feelings and a will of its own, the rulers of a country legitimise their own powers. Personification leads easily to deification; and where the nation is deified, its government ceases to be a mere convenience, like drains or a telephone system, and, partaking in the sacredness of the entity it represents, claims to give orders by divine right and demands the unquestioning obedience due to a god.


In conclusion, the literati suggested that challenges like these can be overcome by upholding high moral standards in politics, but warns:”Politics can become moral only on one condition: that its problems shall be spoken of and thought about exclusively in terms of concrete reality; that is to say, of persons.



Otherwise, it will continue not to make sense that, 50 years down the line, Malawians still grasp the very same wisp of dependency-pain the nationalists felt. It has been a 50-year-old journey to nowhere. May be the fate of a nation crested by images derived from wishful thinking.

REPORT BY JUSTICE MAXON MBENDERA SC, CHAIRMAN OF THE MALAWI ELECTORAL COMMISSION DURING THE SEVENTH NATIONAL ELECTIONS CONSULTATIVE FORUM (NECOF) MEETING

REPORT BY JUSTICE MAXON MBENDERA SC, CHAIRMAN OF THE MALAWI ELECTORAL COMMISSION DURING THE SEVENTH NATIONAL ELECTIONS CONSULTATIVE FORUM (NECOF) MEETING ON 4TH JULY, 2014, HOTEL VICTORIA, BLANTYRE




Fellow Commissioners;

Honourable Leaders of Political Parties;

Your Excellencies members of the Diplomatic Corps and Representatives of all
development partners;

Chief Elections Officer, your deputies and all members of staff of the Commission
Secretariat;

Paramount Chiefs;

The Chairperson for the Centre for Multi-Party Democracy (CMD);

Senior Government Officials;

Distinguished Members from the Civil Society Organisation;

Distinguished Members of the Press;

Ladies and Gentlemen.




Good Morning,

Welcome to Hotel Victoria,




We are meeting here today for the first time after the May 2014 Tripartite Elections. And before I go further in my report I should start by apologising to you all for the change in venue of the meeting.



It was earlier arranged that this meeting would take place at Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe. However, due to other circumstances it had to be shifted to Blantyre. So we do not take it for granted for the fact that you have made it to this meeting. Our change was at short notice and for many of you it was not an easy task to accommodate the change in your tight schedules. Some have failed to come because of this change but for the fact that you have still made it, we are grateful and salute you for that.



Ladies and gentlemen, this is the first NECOF meeting after elections, allow me to congratulate all the candidates who emerged winners in the three elections. The fact that Malawians ushered them into office symbolises the trust in them and that they can deliver. I implore them to do their best not to betray that trust. It is our prayer that God will grant them wisdom to discharge their duties honestly and efficiently.



Also allow me to thank and congratulate all stakeholders for contributing to the success of the May 2014 elections. I thank all Civil Society Organisations that provided civic and voter education. There were many but allow me to single out National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) Trust, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) and Public Affairs Committee (PAC), Malwi Electoral Support Network (MESN) for the tremendous role they played.



Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me also to thank all political parties and candidates in particular for contributing to the sustenance of peace and stability of the country. We have had bloodless electoral process if we compare to past elections. Malawians in general deserve my, and the Commission's, heartfelt commendation and appreciation for maintaining peace and being disciplined.



I should also thank the Development Partners for contributing to the success of the elections through financial, material and technical support to MEC and the civil society organisations accredited by the Commission.



I will be failing in my duties if I do not commend the Police and the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) for providing security and logistical support during the elections period. In particular, the MDF provided us with trucks, fixed wing aircraft and helicopters which ferried staff and materials like ballot papers.


For the Government the timely provision of funds made it possible for the Commission to deliver the elections as required by the law. We wish to commend the spirit of working together.


I should also thank staff from the MEC secretariat for working tirelessly around the clock to ensure that the elections are success despite the elongated time that it took us to finish the task.



Today, we are presenting a final report of the elections. Our last meeting at this same place was on May 9, 2014 and this was during the campaign period. Since our reports to NECOF have been thematic, I will focus on the events from the last day of our meeting to this day we are meeting. My report, therefore, will focus on:

End of campaign;

Logistics and distribution of materials for polling;

Polling result counting, transmission and determination;

Complaints handling.


And Observation




End of Campaign
The official campaign was launched during the NECOF meeting held at Hotel Victoria on March 20, 2014. Official campaign commenced on 21 March 2014 and ended at 0600 hours on 18 May 2014.



During the campaign period the Commission was also conducting meetings with traditional leaders and their subjects across the country on the need for them to attend political rallies and violence-free campaign. The Commission combined this activity with campaign monitoring. MEC commissioners criss-crossed the country and I am glad to report, and you can agree, with me that the conduct of the campaign this year has been peaceful. With the exception of a few isolated cases , we did not generally have cases of violence and intimidation as we did in previous elections.



During the campaign period the Commission did its best to level the playing field for the contestants. The Commission requested political parties to produce three minute campaign jingles and purchased airtime on radio stations where the messages were aired.



The Commission also met with the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) board twice after noticing that there was bias towards the incumbent leadership then. Through the discussions between the Commission and the MBC board coupled with political will, the nation witnessed a new kind of MBC. The station opened up to all the contestants.



At the Commission, we know there is need to reform the law governing MBC but another big factor is political will. MBC has opened up to all parties without change or amendment of law. We need to sustain the current scenario so that MBC continues to transform towards a true public broadcaster every one of us wants it to be.



I should thank all political leaders that participated in the presidential debates. The debates were a level platform for all candidates to sell themselves to the public. They also offered an opportunity for the electorate to know and compare the views of various candidates on topical issues. This contributed to building an informed citizenry. May, I, therefore, thank all the organisations that were involved in organising the debates led by MISA Malawi. In particular I should thank OSISA for providing funding and also National Democratic institute for technical support.



One challenge during campaign period was abuse of state resources. Presidential campaign rallies could not be distinguished from presidential functions. There should be legal reforms that will check abuses of state resources during campaign. Having a cabinet up to very close end of the campaign period provided a room for the executive to use state resources for campaign. May be there should be a law dissolving the cabinet before campaign period starts and that the incumbent should not hold development rallies after the launch of the campaign period.




Polling and vote counting
The Commission started distributing non-sensitive materials which included ballot booths and generators to the councils on May 5, 2014. Ballot papers were distributed to councils on 16 May 2014 from Kamuzu International Airport.


The Commission tried all its best but challenges were faced on the polling day that some centres either opened late or did not open at all because materials were not delivered in times. The Commission needed 1900 vehicles but was given 1,345 vehicles. Because of this some 43 out of the 4445 centres voted on 21st and 22nd May 2014 in Blantyre, Dedza and Lilongwe districts. In some of these centres polling was disturbed while in progress. The Commission had to print ballot papers to enable voters in these centres exercise their right.


I should also report that when we were deploying our staff for polling, some faced hostility and harassment especially in Lilongwe to an extent that the District Commissioner and the Chief Executive Officer resigned and a laptop was lost. The disturbances that occurred on May 20 also led to loss of property like some classrooms, election materials and tents were burnt.


To ensure that no bonafide registered voter was denied the right to vote, the Commission made available at every centre the Part As to help in identifying eligible voters. These were used as a back up just in case the name of a registered voter was missing in the voters roll.


Counting started with Local Government, then Parliamentary and finally Presidential elections. Counting was done per stream and then the results were aggregated for the polling station. In most polling stations, signed results sheets were given to monitors and another pasted at the centre.


There were some challenges in some centres that they did not have the results sheets and other materials. This was a distribution problem at the council level. However, where such problems were experienced the Commission immediately moved in to supply the materials. This was the same for ballot boxes where shortage was experienced.



Result transmission and management
The Commission with support from Development Partners contracted Globe Computers to provide a Result Management System. The system really worked on the day but challenges arose when presiding officers started bringing results with what the machine took as anomalies. The system was allowed to accept up to 800 voters per stream. We had some challenges that some presiding officers ignored the rule of 800 per stream and in some centres streams were combined and the voter population went beyond that and automatically the system could not allow for those results. The system could also not accept results with arithmetical errors.


The unbalanced figures gave a challenge for most Constituency Retuning Officers (CROs) to transmit their results to the National Tally Centre using the Results Management System. The Commission decided that all CROs should bring the results in person to the National Tally Centre in Blantyre for capturing into the system.


There were speculations that the system had been hacked and also that it had crashed. This was not so it is the factors that I have given that conspired to create the scenario we had.



At the national tally centre once the results were captured into the system they were shared with political parties for them to verify with their monitors.




Results Determination
The Commission was compelled at first to move the court to allow for recounting of the votes so that the results would be not doubted by everyone. This was after noticing anomalies that needed explanations in some 61 centres which were quarantined and also in others where the voter population in a constituency was close to the voter population for the district itself. The Commission investigated and re-examined the figures and it was found to be explainable using the polling centre result sheet. These results were corrected and formed part of the national vote count that was announced.


The Presidential results were announced on 30th May 2014 with the Parliamentary and Local Government Elections following on 2nd June, 2014.


The Commission still remembers the fears that were expressed by many stakeholders that tripartite elections were complex and many people would be confused resulting in many null and void votes. However, as you noted from the figures that there has been an improvement. The percentage of null and void votes has gone down from 2.54 in 2009 to 1.09 percent this year. This, as stakeholders we can all pat ourselves on the back.




Complaints Handling
The Commission established a complaints unit with funding from the UNDP managed basket fund for prompt legal advice and opinion to the Commission on all matters that required such a service.

Three local lawyers but headed by an international lawyer were recruited. During the last NECOF meeting details including phone numbers and email address were given on how to contact the unit. A press release was also put up in the media.


To date the unit has handled 360 complaints on various categories like campaign related, counting, arithmetical reconciliations, candidate bribing, interrupted polling, etc which were attended to.


From these 360 cases we only have 18 petitions in the court.



International and Local Observers
The Commission relaxed all rules to enable more eligible people to observe the elections. The Commission recruited four temporary staff to process accreditation IDs for observers and also engaged former Commissioner, Ambassador Ron Mkomba, as Commissioner at large to be the liaison point with observer missions.



A total of 1226 accreditations were made for media, local and international observers. Some observers have shared their reports with us, while others have not. If there is any organisation here that observed the elections, get the message that we need your report. Your observations and recommendations will help us improve for future elections.



Funding for Elections
Government and Development Partners agreed for an at least 60 per cent and up to 40 percent contribution respectively towards the budget for the elections. It is an open secret that the elections were conducted during a lean period where development partners had withdrawn their direct budgetary support to the country.



However, I should thank staff at the Treasury for prioritising elections budget. We appreciate the challenges the Treasury faced. But they tried within the limited resource envelope to support MEC.



I should thank once again the development partners because they did not stop their direct budgetary support to elections despite suspending direct support to the government.


There are several issues that have been raised regarding funding for the Commission, like funding for elections should look at elections as a cycle and not as an event. In some cases since the funding has to be accommodated in one fiscal year budget, it becomes a burden on the national budget. If the budget could be spread over several years, the burden cannot be felt.




Need for Law Reforms

These elections despite being unprecedented on the fact that they were tripartite, they also came with unique challenges.


For example, we had two resignations of running mates. Apparently, the law is silent on what happens when a running mate resigns or even dies before elections. This and many other sections of the law will require proper attention so that the lacuna is filled. For this to succeed, it is recommended that the reforms take place between now and May 2015 and not later than that.



During nomination period, we also had court cases regarding the candidatures of those individuals who were perceived to be public servants. There are some inconsistencies in the rulings by the High Court. While one ruling said university employees are public servants, other rulings said they are not. As a Commission, we need proper direction for future elections.



We already appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal before elections but we stalled the process so that we could concentrate on managing elections. Now that elections are over, the Commission has instructed Counsel to retrieve the cases in the Supreme Court of Appeal.





By-Elections

There are two constituencies: Thyolo East and Blantyre North and five wards: Lisanjala in Machinga, Kandeu in Ntcheu, Lifupa in Kasungu, Mbalachanda in Mzimba and Zgeba in Karonga where elections have to be conducted. I should assure everyone that it is in the interest of the Commission to hold the by-elections as soon as practicable so that these areas also have representation in the appropriate spheres of government. We will announce the dates for the by-elections towards the end of this month once the calendar and budget have been finalised.




However, I should share some points that the Commission will open the registration centres so that those only who will have attained the age of 18 on the polling day to be announced should go and register. This means those who were not 18 years old on 20th May 2014. Those who already registered will be requested to go and verify their details in the voters’ register. No transfers will be entertained.



Also those wishing to contest will be required to collect nomination papers and fill them appropriately. Candidates of the postponed elections need not to go through this process. These ones will just need to affirm to us in writing on their intention to contest and if the other details remain unchanged.



Conclusion

Despite the challenges that we faced, the Commission identified solutions and concludes that the May 20 tripartite elections were conducted in a free and fair environment where all registered voters were given an opportunity to exercise their right. This view has been supported by various observer reports, the latest one being the final report by the European Union long term observer mission.



There were, of course, challenges on the polling day but we should look beyond May 20, 2014. The Commission did put in place measures to afford those who failed to vote on May 20 an opportunity the following two days to cast their ballots. In some centres voting was disrupted and the Commission had to re-print ballot papers within the country to enable people in the centres to vote.



With these few remarks, I should thank you all for your attention.

God bless you

Thank you very much