Hot public debate as National ID cards issued in 2016 starts expiring

  • Renewal fee at K2 500 as over 3 million IDs expiring in 2021

All national identity cards that were issued in 2006 have begun expiring from January 1, 2021 and the National Registration Bureau (NRB) is asking the public to start the renewal process — preferably 30 days before its expiry.

IDs has expiry date

In a statement, the NRB — which is under the Ministry of Homeland Security — says the applicant must in person visit the NRB District Registration offices spread in all district Councils across the country and present the expiring/expired cards.

Thereafter, they shall be required to make a replacement application by completing NR1 and NR2 forms; pay a renewal fee of K2,500 through the treasury cashier and then the Registration Officer will update the applicants’ biometric data.

NRB says the standard waiting period for the issuance of the renewed card is 30 days and that on the collection of the new card, the applicant is expected to surrender the expired card to the District Registration office.

“In the case of lost ID cards that have expired, applicants are required to obtain a Police report which should be accompanied with a government receipt before submission to NRB.

“Please note that proxies are not allowed in ID renewals,” said the statement issued on December 29, 2020.

NRB says expiry of National ID cards is in line with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Standards (Doc 9303) upon which the Malawian ID is based.

However, the renewal system has been widely condemned by the public on social media, saying why should this document expire when the citizenship does not.

It all started with a Facebook post by Onjezani Kenani, who disclosed that over 3 million national IDs are expiring in 2021, which will likely create more congestion problems because NRB takes “forever just to replace a lost or damaged ID”.

“God knows what waiting we have to endure in such a mass exercise [of renewing the 3 million national IDs that are expiring in 2021],” Kenani said.

“While at it, should a citizenship card expire? I hope this was not designed for some companies to make money. We could have arrangements for those under 18 to renew after some years, since facial features change as you grow, but 18 years or older no need for expiry.”

He also said the cards are not durable as they break easily: “When renewing, can we please have a card that does not break easily?”

Patson Mwakaghe opined that it is like “we are not citizens of Malawi but all of us are visitors. [Maybe] that’s why we have to renew our citizenship in every three years”.

He likened it to the renewal of driver’s licence, saying it’s as if one’s driving prowess diminishes over the five year period of experience.

“It’s like going back to secondary school every 10 years to sit for Malawi School Certificate of Education examinations again since the syllabus has changed,” he said.

Mzondi Chirambo joined the debate, saying if his recollection is right, the original proposal we made way back in June/July 1996 that the ID cards should be renewed only once.

“After that there should be no renewal as basically the facial features of an individual will not substantially change. And even if they do change for some reason, the fingerprint would not,” he said.

Nathan Banda said even when one grows old, they can still be identified through their aged face to the original young face.

“There is no need to have IDs expiring. It’s really going to be unnecessary expense to the country.”

Lawyer Ishmail Wadi said: “The expiry of the national identity surprised me a lot and I postulated that the primary motive for the ID’s was ‘money’ and not to provide a recognized identification to a citizen.”

Qatar-based lawyer Timothy Nundwe came to the defense of the renewal process by suggesting that the cards should have the same duration of 10 years just as it is for passports.

“[National ID card] should expire because after 10 years your details, including your physical features, usually change. The way you look at 16 is not the same as when you turn 40.

But Martin Mtawali was incredulous to this, saying: “Timothy, are you saying you can’t recognise your father in 10 years. To ID someone, you just need the eyes and mouth — that’s why thugs cover the mouth and nose!

“These are related and stay that way till you die, look at your picture when you were 18 and now, is it hard for anyone to tell it’s you in both pictures? No?”

Munyaradzi Petautchere also did not agree with Nundwe, saying biometrics should be enough even if one’s face changes.

“Because, apart from that, what other physical attributes are visible on the card? In 10 years, my face has barely changed at all. It’s a chipped card, for crying out loud.

“So unless they are upgrading the Tech, I don’t see the necessity of having an expiration date on the ID cards.”

But Nundwe stood his ground, saying the biometrics information may change after 10 years even if one’s face never changes.

“For example, at 16 you may be in high school but at 40 you may be president of the country or CEO of MBC. This information needs to be re-imbedded every 5-10 years.

“I am speaking from my experience here in Doha where we have had ID cards during the last 20 years. Our IDs here are valid for 5 years for citizens and 3 years for non-citizens.

“The good news is that here an ID is issued or renewed with efficient speed, like withdrawing money from an ATM — five minutes and you are done.”

Other commentators disclosed — albeit without evidence — that neighbouring countries such as Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana, South Africa and don’t have IDs that have expiry dates.

“In Zimbabwe, an ID lasts forever,” said Simeon Kazombo Mwale. “You can only replace if it’s lost or damaged.”

And so the debate raged on with Kondwani Ngongondo arguing that “there is no way a nationality or identification of a person can expire unless expressed death of the person”.

“What matters is the number one database for all. This is the reason why we could not come up with credit data bureau soon enough.

“Again someone can vanish upon expired ID, jumps into another data base clean slate” hinting that there might be no default record in the process.

“Have you ever wondered why it took us so long to come up with ID? Is Malawi for Malawians if they are running on expire-in ID? Who did this system? Yes, the answer is we copied it somewhere, but this was our only chance to be real.”

Innocent Magombo brought in the issue of non-durable cards, saying they are indeed very fragile.

“I broke mine and was complaining to this bank teller the other day on how careless I was to have the National ID card broken yet I have never broken my driver’s license or ATM cards.

“She said she thought it’s not my fault. She estimated that more than half of the IDs she receives at the bank are broken because of their fragility. I thought this needs to be addressed indeed.”

Boas Manduka said: “My card is literally several pieces held together by the plastic holder it came with. It’s a miracle that the bank still finds it valid for processing payments.”

Chawala Shalom said he carries his in a plastic bag and when he wants to use it, he have to assemble it on a table like a jigsaw puzzle.

Martin Mtawali was of the opinion that someone through IT companies “is obviously benefiting from it” so that they can break easily for people to keep replacing them regularly and make more money.

Felix Millowa said: “You are not a Malawian citizen forever, according to the Malawi Government (connotatively). Your citizenship must be vetted again after 5 years, in case you aspire to become a Mozambican, Zambian or Tanzanian.”

To which Dora Mangulama re-joined, saying: “At that point, they can revoke your citizenship. And what percentage of Malawians would change their citizenship in 5 years?

“Compare this against those that will not and how much it would cost to replace. They are already overwhelmed with new cards and then add replacements.

“In SA, their IDs do not expire yet they have emigrants all the time. It is a costly exercise.”

Kondwani Phiri pleaded that the system should be automatic that people just go and collect at NRB or put in place a mechanism where one would want to collect from.

He bemoaned the long queues that are associated with the registration process where even the staff at government agencies take the opportunity to treat citizens “like garbage. I had tough time to get baby certificate of birth.”

Ndindisa Ng’oma summed it up, saying: “Citizenship does not expire, but proof of citizenship does expire. A card is just a proof of citizenship so it’s bound to expire periodically. On this one we have no case to answer.

“On the delays to renew lost or damaged cards, guilty as charged. We need to up the game.”

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1 year ago

I have chills rolling down my spine with some of these clueless thinking on this land, in 2015 i was arguing with the bank manager for he was claiming that my passport as a malawian of origin has has expired and they couldn’t help me… so i asked him “have i expired as a citizen” oh he looks down and up the a rejoinder, no “you have not expired” then help me with the transaction, he says we can’t Do we really expire as malawians of origin after verifying with no reasonable doubt we are malawians? why label permanent documents… Read more »

the illuminate
1 year ago

The funny part is everyone needs to pay including those poor grannies in the villages who were assisted to buy the cheapest fertilizer, if the government could foresee that about 4 million households could not afford to buy fertilizer @ the normal price, what makes it certain this time that the very same poor people will afford to get the Mk2500 renewal fee? It seems some of these policies are just put in place without thorough consultations

1 year ago

As a foreigner I am still waiting for the ID
card whichh I paid MWk 20.000 some years ago. What happened to these cards?

1 year ago

Very interesting. Majority are poor and cannot afford this. What will happen to AIP programme this year potiimadalira the same ids. Beware!

1 year ago

Malawi is good at copy and paste from what other countries are doing. It’s good, anyway, however knowing what we are capable of can be the best advancement in the way we do things.

1 year ago

This is total daylight armed robbery

Malawi Fisrt
Malawi Fisrt
1 year ago

Kodi tikhala ma pilot tosenfe, ma ID kutipanga che aviation standard. Yanga yapanga expire, nkhawa zili biiiii ndi ma renewal.

John chidongo
1 year ago

Zazi opanda ID amafa. Ikuyenera kukhala ya ulere. Akataya ndiye azilipira. Mwayambanso za makadi eti? Mwangositha dzina. Za mapassport sizigwira anthu ambiri amapita ku Joni pano ndi corona ntchito kulibe abwerako. Muuponda aTonse alliance. A Chilima mwangokhala chete masiku ano muli pa mpando wonona simukumbukanso osauka mwaleka kutokota. Ndipo mukosowa pogwira ndi ma manifesito anu ochita kunyamula chinthumba cha feteleza kungozithyola nacho
Zazi. Ma Id muuponda ndithu. Chekwera must step down sakutha.

1 year ago
Reply to  John chidongo

Leave the Tonse Alliance out of this. I remember when i was getting my ID in 2017 i asked the NRB Officials why my ID was to expire in 2021. They did not give me a convincing answer but they clearly told me that i was going to pay money for my ID to be renewed. I was pissed off but there was nothing i could do. Was the Tonse Alliance in government then? If there are people to be blamed it’s our Members of Parliament and these include those from the opposition then and the DPP Government. I rest… Read more »

Mwini muzi
Mwini muzi
1 year ago
Reply to  Ida

The renewal of IDs at K2500 is part of the rubble that Tonse government should remove. They have power within their disposal to remove this and DPP should not be a scapegoat.

Ernest Nyirenda
Ernest Nyirenda
1 year ago




1 year ago

kkkkkk, so munthu should spend over K2, 500 because of renewing his/her ID card?. Apatu tikukamba za Transport, food ndi zina zotero. plus ukapezeso chi line, mkuzabwereraso mkuzapitaso…….zoona?

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