Chakwera lied on passport system hacking, says CDEDI

Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera accused of lying

The Centre for Democracy and Economic Development  Initiatives (CDEDI) says President Lazarus Chakwera’s claims that the country’s passport printing system has been hacked and that the hackers are demanding a ransom are not true

Releasing its findings on the crisis, CDEDI disclosed that Malawi is in the current situation because some well-known Malawi Congress Party (MCP) connected ICT gurus, including officials from e-Government, Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) and National Registration Bureau (NRB) were against technical advice from internal ICT team at the Immigration Department and went on to bypass Techno Brain and GIT passport printing system in an effort to run away from paying licence fees.

According to CDEDI Executive Director Sylvester Namiwa, investigations show that the system was tampered with through the Lilongwe server office at Malawi Postal Corporation Training Centre, along the Paul Kagame road where the Department of Immigration and Citizen Services headquarters is earmarked to be located.

Namiwa has, however, described Chakwera’s remarks on hacking and further disguising the GIT’s maintenance  contract fee as ransom as just a ploy to earn himself and his administration public sympathy.

In March 22, 2019 the Malawi Government engaged Techno Brain on a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis where the company used its money to build the system for printing passports on the understanding that it would recover its money through passport fees and later hand over the operations of the system to the Government after three years with a recommendation of a Dubai-based company, GIT, as a maintenance consultant.

After the system crashed, an MCP ICT team acted wiser and convinced government that they did not need Techno Brain’s assistance despite the company recommending to government that they needed eight days to bring back the system and printing could resume in Lilongwe and Blantyre, to be followed by Mzuzu and Mangochi after being given mandate to recover the system.

Due to growing public rage, MCP ICT gurus who were still trying to apply the try-and-error tactics to recover the system, churned out the hacking narrative which was later used by Chakwera.

“By publicly informing the nation that the Immigration system has been hacked, the President has played in the hands of professional hackers. In fact, the President has just told the world: “Here we are, a helpless and vulnerable nation whose systems are susceptible to hacking!,” said Namiwa.

He added that the narrative is not adding up as it begs some serious questions like on the mode of communication with the hackers to demand the so-called ransom.

“Assuming it is in person, why not unleash State apparatus to apprehend the messenger if they are within the country? If they are elsewhere in the world, why can’t government seek assistance from governments of those countries to apprehend them? Assuming they are communicating via WhatsApp call or e-mails, is it that difficult to use  modern technology to trace them,” queries Namiwa.

As a way forward, Namiwa has suggested that Malawians have to know who tampered with the system looking at the fact that the three weeks the President has promised to have the system up and running is a clear indication that he still trusts the so-called ICT gurus that have failed for the past four weeks.

Namiwa says as it stands, Chakwera is shielding the MCP team  by allowing them to feed the nation lies that they will be able to run the system, through bypassing GIT and Techno Brain, at the expense of people requiring to travel for medical attention, business and school.

“The system requires a disaster recovery site, which was among Techno Brain’s deliverables as per provision of the expired contract,” he said.

The CDEDI boss has proposed that the noble thing to do is for the Tonse Alliance administration to swallow its pride and let Techno Brain do the needful that will allow Malawians acquire passports as and when they need them.

He has also said that Immigration Department Director General (DG) General  Charles Kalumo owes Malawians explanations as to whether all  the deliverables were met.

Namiwa has since implored the relevant committee in Parliament to immediately call for a live public inquiry over the matter, where Techno Brain would also be heard.

He has also called on the government to recall able hands that have full knowledge and skills of the said ‘hacked system’ but were either unceremoniously interdicted, posted and/or transferred, to go back and solve this national crisis, saying the move will save the country from the embarrassment  government has pushed it into.