It is apparent that the just-ended polls were rocked by irregularities, top on the list being the use of Tipp-ex in some result sheets in some of the polling stations across the country.
However, Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) Chairperson Justice Jane Ansah told the nation during one of her addresses at Comesa Hall in Blantyre that the commission did not supply Tipp-ex as part of the polling materials.
Ansah confirmed that the commission had, indeed, received tippexed result sheets but was quick to say results were not tampered with.
“On the tippexed results, yes, we have received forms that are tippexed and the Tipp-ex is in the section which we talked about Friday that they [polling staff] were having difficulties in balancing. It is a surprise to us that the forms are tippexed because Mec does not provide Tipp-ex and, during training, we emphasised to the hired staff that we do not provide Tipp-ex. We should not see Tipp-ex and we are just as surprised that there is Tipp-ex.
“However, the part where it is tippexed, it is a part that they are balancing the number of materials received like ballots; those used and those not used. But on the part of captured results, they are intact.
She also urged political monitors to keep form 60 and 66 which was carbonated saying the original was what was sent to the main tally centre in Blantyre.
“If what you have is different from the original, then definitely we will know something happened and we will go to a clean original copy results, even on the copy that has not been tampered with, so we expect that copies that are given to monitors will be clean copies,” she said.
So, who supplied Tipp-ex?
Random interviews by Malawi News in constituencies where complaints about Tipp-ex were raised revealed that Tipp-ex was in the custody of constituency returning officers in the polling stations where result sheets were allegedly tippexed.
On our visit to the Shire Valley districts, we established that, though the results were disputed by some party monitors due to the use of Tipp-ex, the returning officers had the last say on the results.
In an interview with one of the monitors at St Mathews School, which was the constituency tally centre in Chikwawa Central Constituency, Tipp-ex was spotted on the desk of one of Mec’s information technology official and a returning officer.
“I was at the constituency tally centre the whole day waiting for the results from various polling stations. I spotted the Tipp-ex later in the day on the desk of the returning officer and a Mec official.
“We did not know how it was going to be used until later in the night when we saw some result sheets tampered with using Tipp-ex. We questioned where it had come from but your guess is as good as mine, we were never given a tangible response,”the source said.
Another monitor from Nsanje Central Constituency, who was stationed at Mpatsa Teachers Development Centre (TDC) said they saw the Tipp-ex when other results were coming from different polling stations.
“There are about 26 polling centres in Nsanje Central. I can tell you without fear or favour that results from only four centres came without Tipp-ex. The rest came with result sheets that were tampered with.
“Some of us did not take the matter lightly. We argued and, at this centre, the returning officer Thomas Fred was arrested but was later cleared by Mec and Police.
To be honest with you, the way Tipp-ex found itself on the items to be used on this particular day nobody understands,” he said.
On our visit to Nkhotakota North Constituency Friday, one of the contesting candidates Godfrey Chinunda alleged that Tipp-ex was supplied by Mec.
“It is not a secret that Tipp-ex was distributed by Mec because between the 13th and 14th May when I was invited for the dry vote testing at Khunga TDC where there was a main tally centre, I saw with my eyes a bottle of tipp-ex
“I confronted the Mec official why she was found with Tipp-ex in the office.
As an accountant by profession, l know how Tipp-ex is used when figures are involved.
I told her that I hope this Tipp-ex will not be used on elections day. As if I was prophesying, this is exactly what happened,” he said.
Further investigations carried in three separate schools in the constituency proved that there was no proper orientation for the polling staff on how they were supposed to handle spoiled and null and void votes.
However, despite several concerns raised by various electoral stakeholders, Mec on May 27 2019 declared President Peter Mutharika winner of the presidential elections with 1,940,709 votes, representing 38.57 percent of votes cast, beating Malawi Congress Party (MCP)’s Lazarus Chakwera who amassed 1,781,740 votes, representing 35.41 percent. UTM’s Saulos Chilima emerged third with 1,018,369 votes, translating into 20.24 percent of votes counted.
Mutharika was sworn in as president of the country at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre the following day upon announcement of the presidential elections.
However, last week Friday, during a press briefing held in Lilongwe, Chakwera rejected the results saying it was not an election but daylight robbery.
Meanwhile, Chilima Friday outlined a number of irregularities the party noted during May 21 presidential, parliamentary and local government elections.
Chilima said it is disappointing that despite supporting Mec, the electoral body “dismally failed in its constitutional duty to the people of Malawi by being involved in a scheme aimed at ultimately subverting the will of the people of Malawi”.
MCP and UTM are contesting the presidential election results in court and High Court Judge Charles Mkandawire ordered consolidation of the two cases arguing they have the same arguments.
Lately, MCP supporters have been conducting peaceful marches in some parts of the country, arguing the recent polls’ presidential results are fraudulent.
However, Mutharika Thursday slammed the protesters saying he had ordered the armed forces to safeguard people’s lives and property.