Malawi Electoral Support Network (MESN) has asked the Police in Nsanje and relevant authorities to take drastic measures on the official complaint they have received from aspiring contestant for the seat in Parliament to represent Nsanje South West constituency, Helen Buluma, who reported to them that on Election Day she was heavily assaulted, undressed, humiliated and later collapsed to unconsciousness after being heavily beaten.
According to reports which Buluma herself verified, she was beaten and publicly humiliated by being undressed by a mob of supporters allegedly belonging to her opponents, Eurita Ntiza Valeta and Chidanti Malunga when she visited her polling centre at Dinde Primary School.
At a news conference at Mount Soche Hotel in Blantyre which MESN convened to issue a preliminary statement on the on-going process of the 209 tripartite elections, MESN’s Board vice-chairperson Emmie Kaliya said what happened was a criminal offense and the law must take its course.
“We call upon the Police and all relevant authorities to act upon this based on the law because beating up someone is a serious offense and while we will be monitoring this incident through our observation team on violence against women in elections (VAWE), we expect the law to take its course.
“We have a memorandum of understanding with the police as regards to violence against women in elections and as we expect the police to make an official explanation as to what happened to the extent that there was security breach that led to this unfortunate incident.
“It is the police that should explain and from there we will take up the case and issue our official statement on this,” Kaliya said.
Earlier reports circulating on social media indicated that Buluma had incensed the two opponents’ supporters for allegedly distributing money to voters but Buluma issued a public statement denying these allegation leveled against her.
She said: “A lot has been circulating in social media about yesterday’s event where I was physically assaulted, undressed and humiliated by supporters of my opponents Eurita Ntiza Valeta and Chidanti Malunga as I tried to exercise my right to vote at
“Allow me to set the record straight: At 2:30pm I arrived to vote at Dinde School in the company of my husband and cousins who escorted me to vote. Whilst our party monitor escorted me and my cousin to the right polling stream, I noticed one of the assistant presiding officers; Charity Ntiza — a direct sister to one of the Parliamentary candidates — ticking ballot papers on behalf of at least two elderly women.
“Aware that it would be unprofessional for me to confront her directly, I called two of my monitors and asked them why they were allowing such practices to happen; and asked them to speak to firmly take up the matter with the Presiding Officer
“I then proceeded to the identification desk ready to start the voting process; at which point my phone rung. As I was reaching out to get my phone and answer the incoming call, I heard Ms. Charity Ntiza scream out to some of monitors who I believe were her sister’s monitors — that I was taking pictures for evidence.
“Within seconds I realized I was mobbed initially by 6 or so men who grabbed me and tried to take my phone away — in the process they took my glasses off and started beating me up — and in a couple of seconds the mob grew and I had over 50-plus people who initially were not at the polling station joining the beating.
“I was undressed and beaten whilst half naked — when the polling security staff managed to break through the crowd and lead me off to my car – where abit large mob had surrounded the car and refusing my husband and I to get in.
“We eventually managed to get in the car and drive off to the police station where I gave my statement and in the process I collapsed. I was then rushed to the Nsanje District Hospital where I got some medical attention and was admitted for observation.
“In the meantime, social media and community radio stations were announcing different versions of the incident — one of them was that I had been disqualified for distributing cash at a polling centre — a thing that never occurred and I would not dare do as it’s against who I am and what I stand for.
“However, this was happening 3 hours before polling centres closed and I believe affected the perceptions and decisions of voters who had not yet voted.
“It’s important for me to set the record straight; I never distributed cash or party material at any given time on this day whether close to the polling station or at the polling station let alone on any other day after the official closure of the campaign period and I am personally against cash hand-outs; so my campaign has been free of cash hand-outs throughout.
“I am physically and emotionally hurt, but very stable and I thank God for saving my life and therefore very determined to get to the bottom of this and see justice done,” said Buluma, who added that she never had the chance to vote as by the time she got discharged, the voting process had been closed.
Meanwhile, MESN’s chairperson Steven Duwa said Malawians must exercise patience as the electoral process is in progress until Malawi Electoral Commission announce the official results within the mandated 8-day period.
“This presidential election is expected to be the most competitive in Malawi’s history. The MEC should be allowed to complete the process of collatingband announcing results. Observers as well as political parties should continue to closely watch this process to ensure that it is inclusive, transparent and accountable.
“MESN will remain vigilant throughout the collation and and the MESN PVTs will provide independent verification of the presidential results as announced by MEC.
“The PVT is a powerful tool to deter manipulation of the presidential results and to expose when manipulation has occurred. MESN has successfully conducted PVTs in the past for presidential elections in 2009 and 2014 and all our systems are functioning,” Duwa assured.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :