With George Kasakula:
This time claims of rigging started with President Peter Mutharika ranting at a rally that he knows of an individual or individuals in Malawi who want to rig the May 21 elections by bringing in a machine and some foreigners from Nigeria, Russia and Greece to operate it.
From the tone, this someone must be his nemesis, who also happens to be his constitutional Vice-President Saulos Chilima.
After the President made the remarks during a whistle-stop tour of the Central Region, other electoral stakeholders faulted the President with the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) saying the electoral body has not received any complaint, insisting the polls cannot be rigged and would be free and fair.
This was said by one Mec’s commissioner only for another to reverse the stand five days later and confirm that, indeed, there are people lurking out there capable of rigging the election.
All this has been followed up with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services taking a strict stand on issuance of visas ahead of the May 21 elections by, among other things, being strict on nationals from India, Nigeria, Greece and Russia, whose visas will now be referred to headquarters for processing.
The Public Affairs Committee (Pac) has, Meanwhile, instituted an investigation into rigging allegations, insisting that rigging claims coming from the President and Vice-President are a matter of concern and that the body also wants a meeting with Mec.
Those who saw the President speak observed an animated, passionate and rattled Mutharika, howling on top of his voice that he has evidence on possible rigging of our elections, all indicating the ‘culprit’ is his vice.
But Chilima made similar claims in July last year when he was launching his UTM.
He said there was a spy machine and he knew where it was and how it was being moved.
He later boasted that no one can rig the elections as matters of technology ‘ndi kudya kwathu’ and they will meet at a time and place where that someone wants to play games with the elections.
All these claims and counterclaims by the President and his vice amount to one thing and it is the seriousness of this matter and what it means to the credibility of the polls coming in two weeks.
The two people talking about it are two top most people in government who know what they are talking about.
We must not consider this as a laughing matter because elections can, indeed, be rigged and they have been rigged before in Malawi.
We have evidence of how the High Court nullified elections in Lilongwe City South after Mec declared Bently Namasasu winner, forcing Ulemu Msungama to challenge the result and ask for a rerun.
Msungama noted anomalies in his supposed loss by 98 votes and asked for a recount or rerun.
When the rerun was done, Msungama won overwhelmingly but, before that, there were lots of shenanigans including the fact that a warehouse containing ballot papers caught fire to stop a recount that Mec was ordered to do.
I repeat. The May 21 elections can be rigged and it is incumbent upon the President to do something about it as the Head of State.
Without it, Mutharika’s critics will be justified in saying that he is making these accusations to justify his possible loss on May 21.
Let us face facts, those who saw the President making the accusations saw an angry man who is being so rattled in his cage that he is not comfortable in there anymore.
This is not much of a surprise because the President knows his political future is dependent on this election and what the majority of Malawians will decide on May 21
But, at the risk of saying the obvious, citizens are saying Mutharika is still president until Malawians decide who goes to State House next.
And so Malawians are wondering why Mutharika cannot order Police, Army, Immigration and NIB to deal with those that are trying to rig our elections come May 21 since he knows they are Russians or Nigerians or Greeks or, indeed, Indians.
He should follow up his order to Immigration and Citizenship Services about strict issuance of visas to Nigerians, Russians and Greeks – who must now feel they are being picked on out of all nationalities that, now, they have the honour of being the only ones whose applications for visas would be processed exclusively by Immigration headquarters in Blantyre – with another order of arrest of those trying to rig the polls.
Those Nigerians, Russians and Greeks and their host must simply be locked up in the cooler to stop them from disturbing our elections.
Without this action, the President risks being described as someone who is panicking through empty rants and looking for excuses in an event of his loss come May 21.
The above said, Mec’s relaxed attitude over the matter should be worrying with its mantra that it is in control and that no one can rig the elections without any tangible course of action to back that stand.
Matters are not even helped by the fact that different Mec commissioners have different viewpoints on the matter.
That is why it is bodies such as Pac that are taking the initiative to take these rigging claims head-on after realising how serious they are.
Why can’t Mec call the President and his vice to a closed-door meeting, to learn more from them and get what information they have to deal with the rigging claims?
These accusations and counter-accusations are affecting the credibility of Mec, in case the commissioners do not know.
Mec cannot have a relaxed attitude because elections can be rigged and these claims have the potential of causing voter apathy come May 21.
Malawians would not see the need to go and cast their vote when someone has already fixed the result to steal their vote and hijack their will and desires.
In the end, there would be no need to have the elections at all, when some shenanigans already have a result that hijacks the will of the people.
In the final analysis, we, as Malawians, must not make a mistake to sit back and think that elections cannot be rigged as the truth is that it can happen on May 21 and it has happened in the past
A clear example is that of Msungama who learnt the hard way and had to struggle to get what was rightfully his by challenging the result all the way.
A simple recount as ordered by the High Court was stopped by the suspicious fire that burnt a Mec warehouse a night before the recount.
Until now, the police have not given Malawians an explanation of that fire and who was behind it.
It was rigging at play and, yes, elections can be rigged.