Several of the gas cylinders and lamps which Malawi borrowed from Zimbabwe and a total of 1,500 ballot boxes are among the materials feared to have been destroyed by the fire that gutted the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) warehouses in Lilongwe after a suspected arson.
The warehouse has been set ablze amidst a High Court case in which one of the losing contestants for the Lilongwe City South Esat Ulemu Msungama (Malawi Congress Party) is challenging the results which saw Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Bentry Namasasu winning.
According to MEC’s Chief Elections Officer Willie Kalonga, the commission is still regarding the incident as a normal fire until the cause is established following thorough investigations.
Kalonga said among the items which were in the gutted warehouse include about 1,500 ballot boxes, gas cylinders and gas lamps (which were borrowed from Zimbabwe Electoral Commision), generators, furniture and stationery.
“The Commission in conjunction with relevant authorities is trying to establish the cause of the fire and the nation will be informed in due course. The cost of the materials damaged is also yet to be established,” said Kalonga.
The fire is said to have started at around 24.00hrs on July 14, 2014.
Sources said that this was soon after unknown vehicle drove into the vicinity and suspected to have thrown a petrol bomb into the warehouse.
“Although the Lilongwe City Assembly was called in immediately to put off the fire, there has been extensive damage to the property and material in the warehouse,” said Kalonga.
The High Court in Lilongwe ruled last week that there should be a recount for the ballots in the disputed Lilongwe South East but the recount was stopped after Namasasu obtained a court injunction. The High Court is expected to hear arguments from Namasasu this Thursday July 17, 2014.
The gutted warehouse is where the disputed votes were being kept.