9.19 million registered for national IDs, cards distribution underway

Venesiya Banda with her new Bio-metric ID Card, proving her legal identity and her Malawian citizenship. Her registration form was completed when the Mass Registration Campaign began in her home district of Mchinji at the end of May. PHOTO UNDP.
Venesiya Banda with her new Bio-metric ID Card, proving her legal identity and her Malawian citizenship. Her registration form was completed when the Mass Registration Campaign began in her home district of Mchinji at the end of May. PHOTO UNDP.

December 1, 2017: The Mass National Identity Cards Registration Campaign has registered 9 186 689 Malawians, exceeding its target of registering nine million people. Speaking on 30th November at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe at an event to announce the final results and mark the end of the mass registration campaign which started on 23 May 2017, President Peter Mutharika described the achievement as historic and transformational to Malawi.

“The National ID Card is a game changer,” said Mutharika. “With a legal identity of every citizen, we will now flash out ghost workers from the public service. We will save more money for public services. With a National ID, every citizen can now access banking services because banks feel secure to deal with legally identifiable citizens. With the National ID, banks no longer have reason to deny services to our farmers, mothers and sisters living in rural areas… This is transformation.”

Speaking on behalf of all development partners who supported the registration campaign, the Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Malawi, Ambassador Marchel Gerrmann, said more needs to be done for the country to benefit from the national IDs system and improve service delivery.

“We hope the office of the Chief Secretary will be instrumental in how government would start the detailed planning on the multiple uses of the new national ID,” said Gerrmann. “The first such crucial linkage was made between NRB [National Registration Bureau] and the Malawi Electoral Commission [MEC], just before the mass registration campaign started at the end of May 2017.

“We expect that this will improve the integrity of the voters’ register and, more importantly, reduce the cost of the elections. The introduction of ID cards should translate into significant cost-savings on the voter registration process and the overall elections budget.”

Meanwhile, NRB is distributing the national ID cards to those who registered during the mass registration campaign.

In a statement released on 11 November, NRB Chief Director Tresphore Kang’ombe said the cards are being distributed through the same centres where people were registered during the campaign, adding primary school head teachers and other public officers assisting with distribution of the cards have been oriented to ensure the cards are only distributed to eligible registrants.

“The general public is informed that the Government of Malawi has the duty to verify every individual’s record to ensure that IDs are issued only to eligible citizens, depending on the authenticity of information and documents with attestations provided,” said Kang’ombe.

At a press conference in Mangochi on 18 October, marking the successful completion of the Fourth Phase of the Mass Registration Campaign, the British High Commissioner Holly Tett expressed delight that the distribution of ID cards was about to start in six districts of the First Phase of the campaign. Distribution commenced on 19 October in Mchinji and Dowa, on 21 October in Ntchisi and Kasungu, on 23 October in Nkhotakota and on 26 October in Salima.

However, Tett said much more work remains to ensure maximum use of the cards so that the system improves people’s lives.

“So, while we have a foundation, the real work is only just starting. All branches of government and major institutions now need to build their capacities to ensure that everyone enjoys the full potential of improved access to services that the national ID card provides,” Tett told the press conference in Mangochi.

“And we all know that this mass mobilisation, however impressive, only is a necessary start for the continuous registration of all eligible citizens by the NRB. As the Malawian Government’s close partners, we will work with you to ensure that the excellent results so far are fully utilised. The same opportunity for registration that has been provided during this intense campaign must be available for all citizens, always,” said Tett.

Then Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Grace Chiumia, now minister of Civic Education, Culture and Community Development, told the same press conference in Mangochi that the first four phases of the campaign registered almost 100 percent of the projected target population. Phase I   achieved 97.2 percent coverage, Phase II 104.9 percent, Phase III 100.4 percent and the result in Phase IV was 99.2 percent. The result for the fifth and last phase is to be released soon and it is also expected show an almost full coverage against the projected population.

The Mass Registration Campaign for a National ID is supported by the Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom, the European Union, the Government of Ireland, the Government of Norway, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and UNDP.