The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has called on political party leaders in districts where the Commission will conduct by-elections on March 30 to urge the electorates to wear face masks when going to polling centres, saying people without masks will not be allowed to vote.
MEC director of media and public relations Sangwani Mwafulirwa made the call on Thursday at Maghemo nerve centre during the multiparty liaison committee (MPLC) meeting Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) jointly organised with Karonga District Peace Committee.
The call comes against the background of total defiance by party supporters who are gathering in large crowds during campaign rallies ahead of the by-elections, a development commentators have faulted, saying it has potential to further spread the virus.
Mwafulirwa said as a precaution measure, it is a requirement that everyone wanting to cast their vote should wear a face mask and where possible carry their own ball point pen.
He said: “In compliance with the Presidential Task Force Covid-19 preventive measures, MEC has suggested that people should be in face masks when coming to polling centres and that they bring their own ball point pens to use. No face mask, no voting. This is to prevent the further spreading of the pandemic”.
However, Paramount Chief Kyungu of Chitipa and Karonga objected to the suggestion, arguing, voting is a constitutional right which requires every eligible voter to democratically participate to elect a leader of their choice, therefore, putting the conditional parameter of no face mask, no voting will prevent many people from voting.
“MEC should instead make sure that disposable face masks are available on polling day to enable everyone to vote. Or else people should be told to bring even any clean piece of cloth with which to cover their mouth and nose,” he said.
In response, Mwafulirwa said he will take the message back to the Commission to make a decision as elections are guided by the Electoral Laws.
Meanwhile, Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) on Friday spared time from their busy campaign diary and go to Kaning’ina Hills in Mzuzu to seek God’s intervention on the much sought after victory for their candidate Fwasani Silungwe in Karonga Northwest Constituency.
In an interview, AFORD regional governor Denis Mhone said they decided to enter into prayer and fasting session to call unto God for Him to answer their wish and grant them the vacant seat.
About 53, 000 voters will decide who among the eight candidates to send to the august house to formulate laws while initiating various developments which the Constituency lacks as the hub of the lakeshore district.
The seat fell vacant following the death of the DPP Parliamentarian James Kamwambi who succumbed to covid-19 last month.