Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) Member of Parliament for Karonga Central constituency Frank Tumpale Mwenifumbo has threatened to drag to court Malawi Congress Party (MCP) district chairman for Karonga James Nkhoma for character assassination.
Mwenifumbo wants Nkhoma to apologize within seven days for accusing him of planning to rig parliamentary elections in the district.
The legislator said this when he appeared before the district’s multiparty liaison committee (MPLC) meeting that was called Saturday at the district council’s chamber to answer allegations leveled against him of vote rigging in the forthcoming tripartite elections slated for May 21.
The decision to summon Mwenifumbo was reached at after MPLC members had discussed the letter Nkhoma wrote the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) on January 1 this year copied to the district’s MPLC and the party headquarters for action.
In the letter, the district chairperson alleges that on 31st December, 2018 Mwenifumbo’s lorry, registration number KA 4381, was seen ferrying people from Karonga North-West constituency to his Mikoma Lodge in Karonga Central to discuss a possible voter transfer deal during the voter verification exercise which is currently underway in Karonga.
“On 31st December we saw a lorry belonging to Mwenifumbo carrying over 100 people from Kasoba, Mpata and Karonga boma and took them to Mikoma Lodge to prepare for transfers from Karonga North-West to Karonga Central during voter verification exercise.
“In 2014 he [Mwenifumbo] used the same dirty tactics as he hired people and impersonated them as bogus monitors of small parties that do not even exist in Karonga. We do not want history to repeat itself,” reads the letter in part.
The letter also accuses DPP’s shadow Member of Parliament for Karonga North Mungasulwa Mwambande of planning to rig elections and ferrying people from Karonga North-West constituency to Karonga North on his car with an aim of enhancing his winning chances during this year’s elections.
But when he appeared before the committee, Mwenifumbo said his truck on this material day picked up people from the mentioned places to Mikoma Lodge which happens to be his business place but said they were his relatives taken from his clan village and that of his wife who were invited to his wife’s birthday party that also coincided with the couple’s silver anniversary.
“We decided to celebrate with our kinsmen because as a family we have gone through thin and thick. I don’t know if that is not within my birthright to mix, to mingle and associate with my relatives just because I wear a political jacket,” said Mwenifumbo.
He further challenged people to check pictures of the celebrations on his official Facebook page to ascertain his claims as every activity was streamed live.
Mwenifumbo has since threatened to seek legal redress if Nkhoma and the MCP do not officially apologize to him and his family within seven days saying the allegations are serious as they have dented his image and injured his family members as well.
On his part, Mwambande said he offered a lift to some people from the boma who wanted to register in Karonga North constituency as most of them did not have means of transport from their business centre to where they cast votes, a thing which he said is normal.
“I was approached by people who come from my constituency if l could provide transport to enable them go and register. As any other politician, I offered my car that did that. But the allegations that I am planning to rig the 2019 elections are baseless and I am demanding a written apology from Mr. Nkhoma and the MCP within five days, failing which I will seek legal redress,” Mwambande said.
Asked whether he will comply by apologizing to the concerned members, MCP district chairperson said he will do the needful thing as MCP is a peace loving party.
“As a party that believes in peace, we will offer an official apology to the concerned parties. However, we will keep an eye on every suspicious event in as far as the 2019 tripartite elections are concerned because as a party we want free, fair and credible elections whose winner will win on merit,” Nkhoma said.
He, however, cautioned the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to make sure that they handle concerns and the 2019 elections with the seriousness they deserve.
Speaking on behalf of MEC, the senior electoral services officer responsible for logistics who is also team leader for Karonga verification exercise, Samuel Sitolo, hailed the Karonga MPLC for resolving concerns raised by the MCP amicably.
“The whole reason why MEC decentralized the system is to have conflict resolution mechanisms at district level. And this is what we really wanted that MPLC should be able to put in place conflict resolution mechanisms and apply them in situations like this.
“We, are therefore, happy that both actors were called to present the side of their story and map the way forward together as a committee. We are impressed with the outcome and hope to move together as we strive to conduct free, fair and credible elections,” Sitolo said.
District education manager Scot Kondowe who sat in on behalf of the chairperson for Karonga district MPLC Richard Hara urged all political parties to bring concerns to the committee with tangible evidence to avoid tension that comes with rumour mongers.
The meeting was attended by MCP, UDF, DPP, AFORD, UTM, Freedom Party, traditional leaders, the police, NICE, the clergy and CCJP of Karonga diocese.