Over nine million Malawians have registered for the National Identity Cards following a mass registration exercise.
President Peter Mutharika officially closed the exercise yesterday, after authorities reached out to over 98 percent of the targeted group.
Malawi now joins countries like Zimbabwe and Botswana with citizens capable of boasting about their nationality through the national identity cards.
The mass registration campaign which faced challenges due to inefficiencies of equipment has none the less proven to be a success.
According to Home Affairs Minister Cecilia Chazama, the exercise encountered a few challenges including the solar powered biometric registration which could not charge in some instances due to cloudy conditions in some areas.
“And also the initial remuneration package was not attractive to the registration officers, hence creating dissatisfaction and affecting output.
However despite all those challenges we were able to meet our target and in most cases surpassing the set target,” Chazama added.
The benefits of the identity cards however outweighs the challenges as the country will not be able to easily flush out illegal immigrants, reduce cost for registration in general elections and even get rid of ghost workers in the civil service.
The mass registration campaign is now over, giving way to continuous registration of every citizen who failed to register as well as all those who that will turn the age of sixteen.
A representative of the United Nations in Malawi Mia Seppo is expressing shock over continued reports of racial abuse and discrimination against minorities in the ongoing National Identity Registration Exercise.
According to Seppo the country’s constitution is very strong on prohibiting discrimination of any form, it does not matter whether they are citizens through birth or marriage or even registration.
Asian, Caucasian and mixed race Malawians and other minority groups are still having their nationality questioned when registering for IDs, despite having the required supporting documents.
One of the most notable incidences is on local artist Theo Thomson who recorded a video of what he encountered at one centre in the commercial capital Blantyre.
In the video the artist is questioned on his nationality and threatened of what may come if he does not stop recording the video.
Uploaded on his facebook page, the video has hundreds of comments many of which are against what Thomson was subjected to with others narrating the hurdles they had to endure during the process of getting registered.
Some of the comments state that the people responsible should be ‘held accountable’ and that facing discrimination because of skin colour is ‘disgusting’ and ‘appalling’.
There has been an outrage on Social Media over the matter, as victims of discrimination have been naming and shaming centres where they faced abuse from Registration officials.
Fears are also being raised that minority groups will not be represented in the 2019 Election, as they are currently being frustrated by some Registration officials.
According to Media sources, the ID will be a crucial document in the identification of eligible voter registrants.
The National ID cards are being issued to all Malawian citizens aged 16 and above, while children under the age of 16 can be registered by their parents or legal guardians.
The Government of Malawi through the National Registration Bureau-NRB is conducting the exercise with funding and technical expertise from the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP).
The reopening of some registration centres in the ongoing national registration exercise is expected to bring a sign of relief among residents in Malawi’s Ntcheu district.
The development follows a public outcry as some citizens were left out without getting registering as the exercise was being rolled out in the district during second phase of the exercise.
Long queues, bad weather and faulty machines were some of the hiccups that resulted in others failing to register in the district.
Speaking to Capital FM, Ntcheu National Registration Bureau (NRB) Assistant District Registrar reminded stakeholders to raise the much needed awareness so as citizens that were left out area get captured in the registration database.
Peter Kacheche however warned for possible prosecution of people that will be found attempting to deter the program.
"This is a national exercise and as such people who were left out previously should go to registration centers and get registered.
Despite that there are few centers we have reopened, but we believe that people in the district will use this opportunity and get registered," explained Kacheche.
The NRB is conducting the exercise across the country in phases and expects to wind up in December this year.
People in Nsanje fear they could miss out on National Registration due to failure by the authorities to provide adequate material for the process.
According to reports by MANA, many villagers in the district are unable to access registration forms.
For instance, villagers who were supposed to get registered at Nyamadzere centre were redirected to Nsanje Catholic primary school to access the forms, but also hit a snag there.
One of the villagers, Boniface Keza, feels the unavailability of the forms shows a lack of seriousness on the part of the National Registration Bureau.
And NRB spokesman Norman Fulatira plays down fears that the exercise is in jeopardy, insisting the district’s team is working round the clock to replenish the forms that have run out.
He however urges registration staff to swiftly report such problems to authorities for action to be taken.
He claims that adequate forms are available but admits that management is a problem.
There are growing fears among Malawians that the availability of National Registration forms on the internet may create room for inconsistencies within the system.
Some people, who spoke to the Malawi News Agency (MANA), believe this gives unscrupulous individuals an opportunity to venture into the business of downloading and selling the forms.
The development follows a series of incidents in some registration centres, in districts conducting the exercise, where people have been sent home because the forms are unavailable.
Thomasi Petero from Chigumula in Blantyre says he failed to register at one centre because it had run out of registration forms.
The NRB’s spokesperson, Norman Fulatira, however maintains that making the forms available on the internet was a deliberate move to make them accessible to all Malawians.
He has told MANA that this measure was put in place by the NRB to avoid cases of centres closing down after they have run out of registration forms.