Embattled Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah is next in line to face Parliament’s Public Appointments Committee (PAC) today at the end of an inquiry to assess the competence of the electoral body.
Committee chairperson Collins Kajawa said on Tuesday that Ansah, a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, has confirmed her availability today following summons to all the nine commissioners.
The inquiry follows a February 3 2020 order of a five-judge panel of the High Court of Malawi sitting as the Constitutional Court that nullified the May 21 2019 presidential election over irregularities and mandated Parliament to assess the commissioners’ competences.
On Tuesday, commissioners Yahaya M’madi, Moffat Banda, Linda Kunje and Jean Mathanga appeared before the committee at Parliament Building in Lilongwe. They followed in the footsteps of Mary Nkosi and Elvey Mtafu on Monday.
During her session, Kunje visibly shocked and annoyed the committee members who felt she was rude in some of her utterances and actions.
Kajawa initially ordered her out of the meeting room for about 10 minutes to allow members debate whether they should proceed with her.
When she was called back, Kunje threw what could be a Molotov cocktail to the inquiry team when she told the members of Parliament (MPs) off that the very alleged MEC incompetence through use of correctional fluid Tippex and the commission they were condemning ushered most of them into the National Assembly.
Kajawa said the commissioner’s conduct was shocking and not professional.
He said: “What she [Kunje] said has nothing to do with the responses, but her character and her character is bad. When appointing people into positions, appointing authorities need to look into character.”
Ansah’s appearance before the committee will come against a background of calls by Human Rights Defenders Commission (HRDC), through a series of nationwide demonstrations that at times turned ugly, for her to resign for allegedly presiding over a flawed electoral process in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
During his appearance, Banda said he would be honest that each commission meeting he attended he was part of the resolutions passed.
On whether he noted things going wrong and offered solutions, he said: “There were propositions that we should have more subcommittees, but I said with the financial crisis we had, if we added one more committee it would not be correct. The chair agreed to suspend the proposal and the status quo remained.”
Banda also told the inquiry that Tippex was used in the 2014 elections. During the 2019 elections, he said he queried the use of altered results, but noted that auditors MEC engaged had stamped and signed for them.
M’madi defended MEC, saying it did not break the law by announcing results using altered documents. He said the commission proceeded to announce results because people wanted them.
He also admitted that results were announced before commissioners signed the presidential result sheet. He said the consensus was by commissioners to sign the results after the announcement.
She stepped on the inquiry team’s nerves with her responses and Kajawa had to remind her that the committee defines the protocols and that she was not supposed to ask questions.
Said Kajawa: “We can’t have a scenario where you as a commissioner you begin interrogating members. That is not consistent to the norms of this House.”
When she was asked about a legal provision allowing use of results sheets altered with correction fluids, Kunje responded: “Through the chair, I am not a legal expert… Can I be protected chair please?”
This response prompted Kajawa to order that the commissioner be taken to a coffee shop for five minutes.
Taking her turn, Mathanga, who chair’s the commission’s electoral services committee, was the most calm of the four that appeared on Tuesday.
When asked whether she was remorseful after the court judgement had pointed to many MEC irregularities, she said she was convinced that she contributed to the quality work MEC had done, apart from the highlighted anomalies such as use of Tippex.
Said Mathanga: “People have the right to appeal, but as a commission, I don’t see the reason to be remorseful because we did the right job. That’s why we want to appeal to the Supreme Court. We are not failures; no, not at all.” Two other commissioners, the Reverend Killion Mgawi and the Reverend Clifford Baloyi are yet to appear before the committee.