Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) in consultation with electoral stakeholders in Mzuzu has increased the number of centres for voter registration and voting in Mzuzu from 37 in 2014 to 45 ahead of the 2019 Tripartite Elections.
MEC District Elections Clerk for Mzuzu City Pilirani Simkonda said, in an interview othat the increased centres are expected to improve the voting experience of especially elderly people and those with special needs as these will now be walking shorter distances to the centres.
“In the wards that we have added the centres , the distance to the centres was too far especially for the elderly and other special groups. So, we wanted to make the centres close to them so that we could encourage them to vote,” Simkonda said.
The new centres include; Thandaza and Mtende School in Lupaso Ward; Chibanja School in Chibanja Ward; Zambezi School in Mzilawaingwe, Masasa CDSS and Beehive in Masasa Ward; St Faustina School in Luwinga Ward and Katawa School in Katawa Ward.
According to Simkonda, the electoral stakeholders also considered high population in some areas such as Chibanja when adding the new centres. The centres, mostly Government schools will be used by MEC for the voter registration exercise in October as well as for voting in 2019.
Councilor for Luwinga Ward Khumbo Harawa expressed satisfaction with the additional polling centre in his Ward.
“We are happy that MEC now has added another polling centre which is St Faustino Primary School. Previously there was an outcry from people residing close to St Faustino that the distance to the nearest polling centre which is the Area 1 B School was far,” said Harawa.
However, Member of Parliament for Mzuzu City, Leonard Njikho welcomed the move to add the eight centres but called on MEC to consider adding more centres in areas with booming populations such as Mchengautuba West and Mchengautuba East.
“For those which have been added, that is perfect. We do not have a problem. There are areas that we would have loved like Mchengautuba West Ward if they could put a polling centre at Nkhokwe or Mageza since the population is high and the place is growing fast,” Njikho said.
“ Mchengautuba East has a high population but the area has only two polling centres . If there was a facility near the four ways like a church to accommodate the stakeholders, then that could have helped. In Masasa they have added Beehive and Masasa CDSS that is fine, I would have loved a polling centre at Napham for some who will not be able to walk long distances,” said the MP.
The process of increasing the polling centres in Mzuzu was led by MEC in response to concerns raised by some councilors and the Mzuzu City MP that the distance to polling centres in some wards could affect the turnout of eligible voters during voter registration in Mzuzu City which runs from October 27 to November 9, 2018 under phase eight of the voter registration exercise.