We have seen the Malawi Electoral Commission busy in the past few weeks doing training and other preparatory work. What is the progress like as at now.
We started with training of trainers who are busy training the actual officers we have recruited to work in the actual registration and operating cameras. Training is going on in Lilongwe now. We have also trained our stringers, the journalists who will be covering all items relating to elections and political parties during the campaign meetings. We are going to train drama groups that will be involved in civic education. This will be next week. So, I would say so far we are on course.
Looks like a lot of work for Malawi Electoral Commission staff, are you sleeping at all?
We have a committed group and most of them have been here for some time. They are professionals and they are doing their work. There is a lot of work, of course, and they are managing because I haven’t received any complaints so far.
You have announced dates for registration and some parties have said you are starting with urban areas when you were supposed to start with rural areas where transport might be a problem when it rains. You haven’t heard any response from you, yet?
We are meeting sometime either this week or next to think about that and that will be addressed. What we are doing is that our regional managers are mapping out the areas where we are doing registration. On our part, we made sure that the first registration exercise which is two weeks should be done in such a way that the supervision of registration clerks and camera operators should be easy, at least for the first exercise, so that if there are any challenges we can deal with them without much problems. We could have had areas in far North, down South and some areas in the Centre but because we have a team of professionals that will supervise the work, we thought that it’s much better to de the registration in the regions but in areas that are close to each other. But for the follow-up exercises, the concerns will be addressed.
Elections take a lot of money and as we are seeing the Malawi Electoral Commission is already spending millions of kwacha. Yet the 2008/09 national budget is not yet approved. Are you worried as MEC?
All I can say is that elections are not cheap. We need money. We are looking forward to the passing of that budget because that is where the money is.
What is your message to Malawians as you prepare for the registration process to take place in the next few weeks?
My main message is that Malawians should participate in the process. They should register, so that they can exercise their right to vote because without registration they will not be able to vote.
As Malawians we have no reason to doubt the Malawi Electoral Commission. But you should win our confidence. Why should we trust MEC, that it can manage free and fair elections?
I think we have been entrusted with that responsibility to do the best to conduct free and fair elections.
Personally as chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission, I think, I have commissioners who are dedicated and willing to do their work professionally and in an independent, free and fair manner. But we need the cooperation of everybody and what we are doing is that we will be interacting with stakeholders very often, so that we can continue with the consultative meetings we started.