Two issues—may be three—have been making the rounds this past week. One is the cost of the election nullification case and who is to foot the K7 billion bill. The second is the newly-gazzeted Covid-19 restrictions. The third is the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) order on the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) to replace unqualified recruits who were fraudulently recruited. All these issues are very important.
Covid-19 is an invisible thief which is ravenously taking out lives. A majority of Malawians know this. They are also aware of the precautionary measures to be followed to prevent the spread of the disease. But they are not convinced about the severity of the problem and therefore the need to religiously follow the measures Government announced last week.
This is evident from the huge numbers of people who do not mask up in some of the most crowded places such as produce markets, including in the CBDs. The situation is worse in the rural areas where 85 percent of Malawians stay. Other measures such as social distance are a chimera while hand washing with soap and use of hand sanitisers are also a far cry. All in all, people in the villages have a different perception of the pandemic. Covid-19 is there but not against them. It is business as usual.
Then against this background Government comes up with restrictions: maximum of 10 people in religious gatherings, wearing of face masks in all public places, no more than 50 people attending funerals.
But a few days after promulgating the rules, not just any other person but the State President himself is one of the first to break the rules. Regardless he and his government expect the people to observe the orders. It’s expecting too much from the people.
This takes me to the second issue—about the ACB order on MRA to fire all recruits it recently employed fraudulently. ACB needs to be applauded for the determination and enthusiasm it has shown to correct wrongs and ensure justice is done and culprits are named and shamed and taken to book. But MRA is only one of many public entities where nepotism and cronyism became a way of life in the DPP administration. ACB should continue on this path and bring sanity in all public institutions. No one should be discriminated against because they hold different political views or come from a tribe different from the ruling party’s leaders.
ACB should also not stop at naming and shaming. Those who masterminded the fraudulent recruitment committed a crime. They should face the law. Doing so will send a strong message to law breakers.
The question of who foots the bill on the elections case is a tired one. And it should not be an issue now because the court has awarded the legal fees. This issue was already dealt with by the High Court sitting as the Constitutional Court (ConCourt). The Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal (MSCA) upheld the lower court’s determination on who pays who. The ruling was that the second respondent or the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) should pay legal costs of the case to the first and second petitioners. The first and second respondents, on the other hand, were ordered to meet their own legal costs. That was several months ago.
Those who are now barking instructions to courts to reverse the awards should be living on Mars. Or they must have been sleeping when the courts first ruled on the legal fees. What they should know is that democracy comes at a cost. Counsels for the petitioners fought for one whole year—from July 2019 to June 2020—in the courts to overturn the fraudulent victory that MEC ignobly gifted Peter Mutharika. They worked hard, spent many sleepless nights and risked their lives. This is the sweat that resulted into the verdict that has changed the country’s political landscape. The figure on legal costs was not plucked from the blues. The courts have a well laid out system and process of assessing and determining legal fees. Everything is done above board. It is now pay day for the petitioners. No one should stop them from getting their well earned dues. Those crying wolf are just jealous and mourning over spilt milk. They should shut up and sit down. It’s too little and too late. Let’s not move in circles.
If they want to blame someone or entity, it is Jane Ansah MEC’s former chairperson and MEC itself who were under State capture. After stealing the elections it was a big mistake for MEC and the DPP administration to think all Malawians would be cowed into silence and submission.