- NPL survey suggests more people want HRDC to continue with demos
Majority of citizens who responded to a Weekend Nation survey on the on-going anti-Jane Ansah demonstrations feel the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) is justified to continue organising the protests.
And in their interpretation, political and governance analysts have said the survey findings should be a wake-up call for political leaders not to take the citizenry for granted.
For the past four months, HRDC has been organising protests aimed at forcing the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah to resign for allegedly messing up the May 21 presidential election results.
But the embattled MEC chairperson, who has described the accusations of mismanaging the polls as unfounded and baseless, has rejected resignation calls, saying she would wait for the court’s judgement before deciding whether to step aside or not.
The Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal judge further described the ongoing nationwide demonstrations by HRDC as “mob justice”.
Weekend Nation asked respondents to indicate whether or not they think HRDC is justified to continue holding demonstrations.
The survey was conducted from Monday this week to yesterday in 10 of the country’s 28 districts and through Nation Publications Limited (NPL) online platforms. And according to the results, 64.7 percent of respondents supported continuation of the demonstrations while 35.3 disapproved it.
As of 9am yesterday, Weekend Nation had reached out to 282 000 followers on its Facebook page; 107 967 on Twitter page and 213 respondents through face-to-face interviews.
Out of the 282 000 Facebook followers, only 4 300 polled with 3 200 respondents nodding to the continuation of the demonstrations while 1 100 said no, representing 74 percent ‘yes’ and 26 percent ‘no’.
On the other hand, out of the 107 967 NPL Twitter page followers, only 642 voted with 64 percent supporting HRDC to continue with the demonstrations while 36 percent were for the discontinuance of the protests.
Out of the 213 face-to-face respondents in 10 districts that included Blantyre, Mulanje, Thyolo and Mangochi (South), Lilongwe City, Kasungu and Salima (Centre) and Mzimba, Karonga and Mzuzu City in the North, 100 said the demonstrations must proceed while 113 were against their continuation. This represents 47 percent and 53 percent for the ‘yes’ and ‘no’, respectively.
The most fascinating outcome during the face- to-face interviews was in Mulanje where out of 28 interviewees none supported the demonstrations, representing a 100 percent rejection rate.
Thyolo had 24 respondents but only two were for the demonstrations. Mulanje and Thyolo are considered strongholds of the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
In Lilongwe City 66.7 percent of the respondents rebuffed demonstrations. This is despite the fact that the city is perceived an opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) stronghold and has so far commanded a huge crowd when demonstrations take place. Lilongwe City has also borne the brunt of most of the violence resulting from the demonstrations.
Karonga District was indecisive. Out of 18 respondents, nine voted ‘yes’ while nine others voted against. Karonga is where Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers beat up some protesters two weeks ago. One of the victims eventually died while receiving attention at a hospital.
Other districts voted as follows: Blantyre (67 percent yes, 33 percent no), Mangochi (80 percent no, 20 percent yes), Kasungu (66.7 percent yes, 33.3 percent no) while in Salima 65 percent voted yes with 35 percent dispproving.
In Mzuzu, 95 percent of the respondents were for the prolongation of the demonstrations with five percent rejecting while in Mzimba 75 percent of the interviewees supported the demonstrations and 25 percent said no.
The survey found that among dominant reasons for consenting to the demos was that people would want to exercise their constitutional right by protesting the outcome of the May 21 presidential poll, which they said was fraudulent.
Those against said the demonstrations have so far been ineffective other than turning into a platform of looters while also affecting people’s businesses.
“These demos have now become irrelevant. Our relatives and friends have physically and emotionally suffered after either being attacked or their property damaged. Businesses have greatly been affected,” complained one of the respondents Cathy Mathanda in Mulanje.
University of Malawi (Unima) political analyst Mustafa Hussein said the survey has many implications, including that the majority of citizens are unhappy with the way the elections were managed.
“That is to say, a majority of the respondents are of the opinion that MEC messed up the electoral administration and that the results were fraudulent. They also support the call for MEC commissioners and Dr Jane Ansah to resign.
“Furthermore, the majority hold negative views of the DPP regime as they associate it with impunity, stealing the election, nepotism and undemocratic practices in general.
“The support on the demonstrations is grounded in the concerns with undermining democratic or good governance principles, particularly the failure to deal with electoral anomalies or malpractices and manage the electoral results credibly,” he observed.
Hussein said the minority who hold the view that HRDC is not justified to continue holding demonstrations tend to advance partisan interests, regionalistic and self-interest “rather than the concern with governance issues.”
The analyst, who is the deputy head of political and administrative studies at Chancellor College, said the results, with the exception of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Karonga, also showed a regionalistic pattern with the majority in the Southern Region holding the view that HRDC is not justified to continue holding the demonstrations.
On the contrary, the majority of respondents in the Centre and North hold the view that HRDC is justified to continue holding the demonstrations.
On his part, Livingstonia University political scientist George Phiri said the results showed most people agreed that the May 21 electoral process was marred by irregularities and that the appointment of MEC chairperson is not based on objective laws and regulations; hence, Ansah’s resistance to resign from the position.
“The ‘no’ results indicate that HRDC demos and implications of tolerating bad governance are misunderstood issues. The survey findings send the message to the public that leaders take people for granted.
“Secondly, public officers have no regard to public call for their resignation once they assume office… votes do not count but the decision of the one managing and declaring electoral results,” said Phiri.
Another political and governance commentator Martin Chiphwanya observed that the survey results were not surprising because Ansah’s refusal to resign had made the situation tense and volatile.
“The prior cause of the demonstrations has not changed. Ansah’s conduct has generally been viewed as pure arrogance by the demonstrators. Ansah’s position has become a subject of fierce debate. The protests have been used as an outward manifestation against her position. Under such circumstances, the findings are hardly surprising,” he said.
Chiphwanya said the findings were a wake-up call to the DPP-led administration that people can no longer be taken for granted on matters of national importance.