could not help but feel extremely proud of the manner in which the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) handled the process for the submission of nominations of presidential candidates. Despite a lingering fear of violence, as supporters of some political party were seen close to the venue armed with pangas and other scary weapons, the events went relatively well. Supporters were able to escort candidates to the venue, witness their candidates make speeches and celebrate a key aspect of our democratic process. As the euphoria of that week settled, it dawned upon me that we are fully capable of conducting an electoral process free of violence. I really hope that as the canvassing season gets into swing parties whose members think it is okay to carry scary weapons to intimidate others will reign in such fools.
Another highlight from that week was the anticipation surrounding the choice of running mates. Apart from the MCP, all the other major parties contesting this election had kept the identity of running mate secret until the last moment. Whilst it made for great theatre, it also exposed the lack of intra-party democracy within the UDF, the UTM and the DPP. The vice presidential position is such a key role in our constitutional setup that leaving such a choice to an individual or a cabal of individuals within those parties to effectively determine the candidate who could become president is reckless. My suggestion would be that such a critical choice must be made at a nominating convention where the presidential candidate is selected.
The surprise (and in some cases, the utter shock) that accompanied the identification of some presidential running mates was palpable as party zealots scrambled to explain why their vice-presidential candidate deserved the pick. As the family Whatsapp groups run riot with jokes about this or the other candidate, some vice presidential candidates did not help their cause through unexplainable displays of servility. One was left but to ponder why the cabal that selected them would choose such people as running mates. Shouldn’t a running mate actually be presidential in the way they articulate the programme of their leading candidate? Anyway, the party choices are now made. It is up to Malawians to make their choices.
And talking about choices, I feel a sense of regret at the failure of Ras Chikomeni’s candidacy: a true patriot whose right to seek our votes has only been thwarted by the lack of depth of his pocket. The fact that the financial requirements for seeking nomination operate as a bar should make us ponder whether we have made the right choices when it comes to the criteria for seeking that office. I hope that in the next few months we can discuss this issue and come up with a formula that allows equal participation in this process regardless of one’s poverty or lack thereof.
Trumping all these ruminations about making presidential choices and all that are the choices that we are making relating to our albino brothers and sisters. It is incumbent upon all of us to make sure that this section of our society feels safe in their communities. It is therefore very distressing when politicians entrusted with public safety speak in the manner that Mr Dausi spoke. I cannot even begin to fathom his callous words where he essentially blames the victims and their families and it is only right that he has apologised. More importantly, he needs to articulate very clearly what his ministry is doing to stem the disgusting rise in attacks against albinos. It should not be APAM insisting on a postmortem for yet another death in custody of an alleged albino murderer. How many of these suspicious deaths should occur before Mr Dausi’s ministry realizes that we have a problem? If our democracy functioned well, it is unlikely that Mr Dausi would still be in a job today because the President would have asked him to resign.
It is this lack of accountability that has convinced me that in the next election we must seek change. We cannot continue with a scandal-prone administration that protects those in the wrong and does very little for vulnerable Malawians. We need to put into post officers of the state that understand that power is only exercised on behalf of the people. To this end, I plan to use my efforts and talents to campaign for Saulos Chilima’s bid for the presidency and the programme of the UTM. For this reason, I will be temporarily stepping away from Accountability Hub until after May 2019. It has always been my view that I must provide balanced and objective analysis of governance issues in our country without pandering to partisan interests. I believe that such affirmation of objectivity must not only be done but must also be seen to be done. Consequently, as I have decided to take an active part in the campaign, I think it is only right that I take my leave lest I besmirch the Hub with complaints of partisanship, however ill-founded those may be.
These next few weeks are critical for our country as we approach the elections and I hope that the choices that you make serve us well. I have made mine. I wish you well. n
*The author is from Bangwe and sometimes teaches law.