Hon. Folks, the Jane Ansah-led Malawi Electoral Commission continues to surprise me. It has hired South African lawyers, a move which will cost the tax-payer a whopping K600 million (USD 788,500) for a case which is already committed to the Supreme Court, what on earth for?
Ansah and her team chose to stay put amid angry @JaneAnsahMustFall demos. The MEC Chair argued that she would go if it’s established by a court of law that MEC conducted flawed presidential elections. In a country where the rule of law is respected, the argument sounded logical, albeit politically incorrect.
A five-member panel of the High Court, sitting as a Constitutional Court, heard the petition by Saulos Chilima and Lazarus Chakwera who came third and second in the botched poll respectively, that the 2019 presidential poll outcome be nullified because the polling was mired in too many irregularities.
MEC as second respondent cobbled a team of three lawyers who defended its case at taxpayers’ expense and miserably lost the case with costs, again to be borne by the taxpayer. The Concourt also established that MEC incompetently conducted the election, flouting some laws in the process.
The court ruled that fresh presidential elections be conducted within 150 days from the day of ruling—3rd February, 2020 and that, in the interim, the presidency reverts to APM and Chilima as winners of 2014 presidential race.
The court then referred the question of whether or not Ansah and her team were fit to conduct the fresh poll to the Legislature which in turn found Ansah and her entire team unsuitable for the job and recommended to the President to fire them all.
Considering that both the Concourt and the Legislature had no confidence in Ansah-led MEC, and considering the mammoth crowds that turned out in various parts of the country to attend the @AnsahMustFall demos not once, not twice, not thrice but more than seven times, a record in the history of multiparty politics in Malawi—the ruling should have sufficed as a reasonable ground for Ansah and her team to pave way for a new team that people could trust.
Instead, MEC, using local lawyers, appealed against the Concourt ruling, their right, many would argue. True! But equally true is the fact that taxpayers– not MEC commissioners– will foot the bill for the appeal case.
Which is why the costly decision to bring in foreign lawyers on the appeal case at the cost of K600 million should be of great interest to Malawians, especially now when MEC’s mediocrity has saddled them with a huge burden to raise billions and billions of kwacha to fund the fresh election.
In case MEC Commissioners don’t know, our public hospitals have no drugs and poor Malawians go there for diagnosis and prescription then end up buying expensive drugs in better stocked private hospitals or pharmacies. The money we’re forced to waste could’ve been better used in the procurement of drugs to save lives, not egos.
MEC should also be reminded that in this 21st Century our children still get killed when walls of substandard classroom blocks fall on them while they are in class. Our children also get killed when dry branches of their under-the-tree open air classes fall on their tender bodies, smashing their heads in the process. Chiefs should tell MEC that in this day and age, our children are being swept away to their premature deaths as they try to cross swollen rivers without bridges while walking to or from school.
Universities should tell MEC that many of our brilliant young men and women are withdrawn from colleges just because they can’t afford fees and the meagre resources allocated to Higher Education Students Loans and Grants Board do not meet the demand by far.
If there’s an area in Malawi endowed with skills and capabilities, it is the legal fraternity. MEC was whacked in the Concourt comprised of local judges and in a case where petitioners were represented by local lawyers.
If the appeal case has merit, MEC can win it in the Supreme Court without importing lawyers from South Africa at the cost to the taxpayer of K600 million. There are many better ways to spend that amount for the good of the taxpayer. Why the desperation?