Commissioner Linda Kunje Annoys Committee of Parliament
A commissioner of the Malawi Electoral Commission, Linda Kunje, suggested Tuesday that presiding officers who are known to have used correctional fluid during the 2019 tripartite elections would be sanctioned after the supreme court determines the way forward in the appeal case now before it in the presidential election case. She, however, said the silence of the law on the matter makes use of the act acceptable.
Kunje was speaking when she appeared before the Public Appointments Committee of parliament which is probing into the competence of the MEC commissioners as Malawi heads to fresh a presidential election as ordered by the Constitutional Court.
She said presiding officers had let the Commission down for using Tipp-Ex when they had earlier “clearly” been oriented against using erasers during all the elections.
Responding to why MEC went ahead to announce results of presidential election before signing for the results, Kunje said she did not see anything wrong with that.
“We did not want to find ourselves in contempt,” she said observing that this was after a court had just lifted an injunction against the announcement of the results. She said since the law is silent about use of tip-Ex, it was ok for officers to use it.
“The same election whose competence you question today, is the same election that put you members where you are today,” Kunje said.
So far, the committee has interrogated Commissioners Bishop Mary Nkosi, Elvey Mtafu, Dr. Moffat Banda, Ambassador Yahaya M’madi and Linda Kunje. Next are Commissioners; Rev. Dr. Killion Mgawi, Rev. Clifford Baloyi and Dr. Jane Ansah.
On Monday, the appearance of Commissioners Nkosi and Mtafu exposed numerous administrative lapses at the commission in how the 2019 elections were management
PAC is honoring a court order to determine whether the commissioners are still fit to run fresh presidential polls as ordered by the Constitutional Court.
First to undergo the capacity test was Commissioner Bishop Mary Nkosi who among other things admitted that MEC erred to announce election results that had numerous irregularities.
"The Commission was working against the eight days period within which it is mandated by the law to announce results. But it could have been better for MEC to seek court intervention to have enough time to properly address complaints."
However Commissioner, Bishop Nkosi told Parliament that the Commission thought it had performed its duties well until the May 21 Presidential election results were challenged in court.
She disclosed that during the results management process, Commissioners observed that a correction fluid called Tippex was being used to conceal some figures and immediately asked DBO auditors if it was okay to continue using the result sheets.
"The head of DBO auditors said he could not put in writing, to authorize that we should continue using the Tippexed result sheets. He said it was not right and against electoral laws."
Commissioner Bishop Nkosi also told Parliament that she wanted to resign from MEC after observing that the commission was heading in the wrong direction but was advised against the decision by lawyers.
She said the lawyers told her she would complicate things and risked to lose benefits she is entitled to as commissioner.
The visibly composed MEC commissioner said she had hoped that she would be summoned to court to testify during the presidential election case. 'But surprisingly we were not'.
Commissioner, Bishop Nkosi surprised MPs when she disclosed that commissioners signed for the results declaring winner of the presidential election on the morning of President Peter Mutharika's swearing-in.
She has told the Parliament that refusing to sign for the results at that point would not have changed anything as the results had already been made public.
According to commissioner, Bishop Nkosi there was growing mistrust among commissioners alleging that the commission chair Jane Ansah summoned her on allegations that she was leaking information.
The MEC commissioner also disclosed that commissioners were never updated on how results of the May 21 elections were being received and managed but at the end they were given already prepared results to announce the winner of the presidential race.
But appearing before the Parliamentary Appointments Committee in the afternoon, Commissioner Elvey Kalonga Mtafu her understanding of the work of MEC commissioners is that of supervisors.
She therefore said the commission executed its duties well during the May 21, 2019 tripartite elections.
The Commissioner told Parliament that she has not yet finished reading the 500 page Constitutional Court judgment in the Presidential election case but that a summary judgment prepared by a team of lawyers is enough to warrant MEC appeal against the court's decision.
She added, MEC Chairperson Jane Ansah signed for the commission’s appeal.
On the use of tippex during the last election, Commissioner Mtafu admitted the correction fluid was used but expressed ignorance on its source.
However Commissioner Mtafu’s responses did not amuse members who alleged the telling lies. PAC Chairperson Collins Kajawa, warned Commissioner Ntafu against lying on oath to the committee reminding her of the powers of the committee and the consequences of not telling the truth.
The committee also expressed dissatisfaction with the commissioner’s responses during her appearance.
“We are disappointed that the commissioner in her responses demonstrated that she was not prepared to appear before the committee despite that she was informed prior to the meeting what she will be required to respond to prior to the meeting”
PAC continues to meet MEC commissioners today and at the end of this will make its passion on the capacity of the commissioners to handle the forthcoming fresh presidential elections.
In its judgment among other things, the five judge panel constitutional court ordered that Public Appointments Committee of Parliament review the commissioners’ ability to run the election following numerous irregularities observed in their conduct during the May 21, 2019 Tripartite Elections.