June 25, 2020
As I write, unofficial results of the fresh presidential elections point to Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera as winner. He led a nine-party Tonse Alliance, with UTM Party president Saulos Chilima as runningmate.
Chakwera and Chilima joined forces the minute they both went to court to challenge the outcome of the May 19 2019 polls, which the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) under Jane Ansah ruled Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had won.
For over one year, the country has been at a stand still since Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda consolidated Chilima and Chakwera’s cases and proposed that a Constitutional Court be set, comprising five judges of the High Court. The court, on February 3 ruled in favour of the two, agreeing they only had a prima facie case to prove and that they only needed to prove, qualitatively, that there were irregularities in the polls. Onus was on the two to prove, basically, that their constitutional rights to participate in politics was impinged on with the tippexed polls. Further, they had to prove that the irregular elections trampled on the Malawians’ inalienable right to vote and participate in politics.
The ConCourt ruled the elections were irregular. Dissatisfied, MEC and Mutharika took the matter to the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal (MSCA), where the ruling was upheld, with the appendix that the appellants’ case was ‘embarassing’.
The whole process has brought several lessons. It is clear that the engines of our democratic institutions have been rolling. Primarily, justice Nyirenda has for some time been at the forefront that corruption must be rooted out from the Judiciary. It is no wonder, then, that during the course of the hearing at the ConCourt, it became apparent that some wanted to influence the judgement. Banker Tom Mpinganjira is expected to reappear in court on June 30 in a case where he is alleged to have tried to bribe the five judges. Further, Zomba magistrate Benny Chitsakamire was summoned before the Judicial Service Commission for the queer circumstances in which he granted bail to Mpinganjira.
Rooting out corruption in the Judiciary is a move in the right direction as the pursuit of justice is fundamental in democracy. Which is why the efforts Mutharika showed in trying to discredit the Judiciary were misplaced. Efforts to undermine that arm of government is recipe for putrefying the rule of law.
The separation of powers became clear when the ConCourt asked Parliament to determine if the MEC commissioners did their job well. The august House was further moved to determine on the dates to hold a fresh poll within 150. In 21 days, Parliament found the commissioners incompetent and set July 2 2020 as the day for the fresh polls. It is clear that the court knew its limits.
Do we need to go back at how Mutharika refused to sign for the Bills that sought to change certain aspects of the Constitution and the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act (PPEA)? It was within his power to do so, but was it in the interest of the Malawian at large? Only the savage that is time has shown us that justice, like light, is scarcely hidden. It came out.
The Malawians who went on the street to demand their rights are the real winners in all this. For so long, they fought that their rights be not stolen under their noses and continue to be bitten with the hippo teeth of oppression. This period has shown to get what is right needs a fight.
Soldiers of the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) are the winners for they stood to protect Malawians as they fought for their rights. That was at a time the police chose to look the other side when other forces wanted to derail the people’s rights to demonstrate. The police sank to the lowest when they raped and assaulted 17 women at Nsundwe, Mpingu and Mbwatalika in Lilongwe. We still await the day the errant officers will be brought to book.
This period has shown us that this is not time to engage in the luxury of thinking that Malawians take suffering with nonchalance. It is a lesson for those coming to power that Malawians will not stop saying ‘We can’t breathe’ when they are gripped. It is a lesson that elections are at the core of their hearts so playing with that is doom.
As we trod into another Republic, it is our hope that we learn that being adamant on national matters does not pay. It is a time for us to reflect on the fact that the nation belongs to all of us. It is a lesson that where a nation stands against us, we are bound to fall. There is no need to exaggerate our importance and give everybody else inflated views of our egos. Ansah is a sad example in that regard.
We go ahead knowing there will be a lot of people who think their going into government means pay back time. It is not. It is time Malawians saw changes in the way government is run, not a personal fiefdom it was denigrating into.