Last week, the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) announced that it had suspended elections in Mwasa Ward in Mangochi North East Constituency citing a “perceivable compromise of electoral processes.” Specifically, the MEC Chairperson raised the issue of ‘increased vigilante behavior’ within the Ward, where youths were meddling in the registration process, usurping powers of accredited party representatives, and interfering with the work of registration staff. The climax of it all, according to Kachali, occurred when these youth vigilantes locked MEC staff in a registration room. Our Correspondent, INNOCENCIA CHIKUSE, sat down with the ruling Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Deputy Secretary General, Gerald Kazembe, to delve deeper into the issue and inquire about his perspective on the suspension. Excerpts.
INNOCENCIA CHIKUSE: We’ve learnt that the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has temporarily halted the election process in Mwasa Ward, and the opposition is alleging that your party is attempting to manipulate the election by facilitating the registration of minors. Could you please share with us, Honorable Deputy Secretary General if this is the path that the MCP has chosen to circumvent the will of the people in Mangochi.
GERALD KAZEMBE: You see my brother, the opposition has previously considered the Eastern Region as its stronghold. Of course, this is a myth and a lie as politics is dynamic. The opposition knew that an MCP victory in Mwasa Ward would be devastating to them and they opted to use undemocratic and disruptive tactics that led to the suspension of the election.
INNOCENCIA CHIKUSE: My question Honorable which you haven’t yet responded is this; were you guys on the ground facilitating the registration of minors in this Ward?
GERALD KAZEMBE: Relax, I was coming there. The allegations of registration of underage voters or minors are categorically false and without merit. The opposition knows and we know that they are simply scared of an inevitable defeat in Mangochi M’Baluku’s Mwasa Ward. An MCP victory in Mwasa Ward now would mean a serious political breakthrough leading to a landslide victory in the next general election in 2025. To address your question precisely, you may wish to know that it is not against the electoral laws in this country to mobilize new voters to register and participate in an election. This is common practice in all democracies all over the world. According to the electoral laws of Malawi, anyone who has attained the age of 18 years and above can be legally wooed to register to vote. As a matter of law, legal registration starts at 16 years old but only an 18-year-old is eligible to vote.
INNOCENCIA CHIKUSE: Are you confirming that you were mobilizing minors to register so they can vote for your candidate?
GERALD KAZEMBE: I have just explained what the electoral legal framework provides and I wonder why you are still pushing the opposition narrative. Are you on their payroll? Look my brother, no one is delusional enough to believe that an underage person can stand in line and attempt to vote in M’baluku without causing alarm. As a ruling party, one of our strategies which we publicly proclaimed in broad daylight was to encourage potential new voters who have reached the legal voting age of 18 years to go and register so they could have an opportunity to exercise their right to vote for a candidate of their choice and there is absolutely nothing illegal about that. In fact, we also know as a matter of fact that the United Democratic Front (UDF) Member of Parliament in this Ward Idi Kalosi was also actually mobilizing new voters allegedly from outside Mwasa ward but the numbers on the ground were still not on his side. We strongly believe that we out-maneuvered the opposition on the ground game in relation to both sealing off the old voter demographic and in wooing the new ones in Mwasa Ward and they knew it was game over for them. For your information, it is the people of Mwasa Ward who will decide their fate and future, not some old and tired politicians and a few vigilantes who have nothing to offer.
INNOCENCIA CHIKUSE: So, you are heaping all the blame on the opposition?
GERALD KAZEMBE: The suspension of this election is squarely their making. The opposition should stop taking eastern region voters for granted. They should go, campaign, and offer solutions. They should stop whining and throwing vigilante tantrums. When the voters previously voted for the opposition at the local level, they expected proper representation but the opposition didn’t produce anything for the people’s lives. Does the opposition expect the voters to eat the hate that they are spreading? We, as MCP have been heavily but subtly campaigning in this Mwasa Ward for over one year now, Our request to voters has been simple, give us the mandate through this by-election vote as pawn for development. Moreover, we recruited a great candidate who has preemptively built a brand-new mosque and has drilled three boreholes in the ward among many other things. This has evidently captivated the imaginations of the M’baluku voters to the chagrin of the UDF and the DPP elites.
INNOCENCIA CHIKUSE: Mr. Deputy Secretary General, you mean your party, MCP, has conquered the Eastern Region?
GERALD KAZEMBE: We are aspiring to make progress in the region. The point I am making is that the opposition were ignoring MCP’s campaign efforts, They actually didn’t campaign effectively in the ward and only two weeks ago, they scrambled to feature handpicked candidates and somehow, they expected people to be on their side. What finally got their attention was when they witnessed in awe the recent August 20, 2023, historic and electric MCP rally in Mangochi M’baluku that was attended by over 5,000 strictly and only M’baluku walking residents, no trucks. Understandably, this rally caused chills in their spines and they were caught pants down. Now after realizing that the politics on the ground is not on their side as a result of their own misguided strategy and to avoid political embarrassment, they resorted to vigilantism during the registration process by intimidating and harassing would-be voters and that is simply the reason MEC has suspended the election to a later date. They are simply scared of defeat, nothing else.
INNOCENCIA CHIKUSE: So, what will you do as a party now that the election has been suspended?
GERALD KAZEMBE: We will not be deterred by the vigilantism orchestrated by a few scared opposition political elites. We are moving forward with our Eastern region attack and we have been encouraged by the cozy reception that thousands of people of Mangochi M’baluku have shown us this past year. Against all odds, the voters of Mangochi M’baluku are willing to give MCP the benefit of the doubt. They are simply tired of the politics of hate and tribalism. MCP has come to stay. It will be contesting elections at any level everywhere in the country. Let’s meet at the polling station in Mwasa Ward. An MCP victory in this Ward is a real scare for the opposition as it will herald a landslide victory in 2025. This is scary to some.
INNOCENCIA CHIKUSE: Thank you so much for granting us this interview.
GERALD KAZEMBE: You’re welcome, my brother.