The Public Affairs Committee (PAC) on Wednesday this week ushered in a new executive board. The new team will have to learn fast to keep the fire lit by the outgoing board burning as it strived to make groups which could not see eye to eye start talking to each other.
Congratulations to the new board members for having the trust of members to place on them the mandate of steering the organisation for the next two years. The importance of the quasi-religious governance institution cannot be overstated. Being non-partisan in orientation and mandate, it is soothing to note that PAC has kept its integrity and mettle as to be able to talk to warring political factions with a view to pacifying them. The new board takes over the mantle at a time the country is pregnant with expectation about the outcome of the elections case currently in the Constitutional Court. There is growing expectation now more than ever before after the court has finished hearing arguments from both sides in the case. The petitioners in the case UTM Party leader, Saulosi Chilima and MCP president Lazarus Chakwera want the court to nullify results of the May 21 2019 presidential elections claiming they were fraudulent. But the first respondent, DPP presidential candidate Peter Mutharika whom MEC pronounced winner of the presidential elections, has declared he won the polls fair and square. The second respondent, MEC which stands accused of holding a sham election argues the elections were free, fair and non-violent and that it did a good job.
Whichever way the ruling goes, it is unlikely that the two sides will take it on the chin. Either side will appeal. There is so much at stake in the case with all stakeholders having invested so much in terms of time and money. But there is no telling now how long it will take for the appeal court to weigh in. Once the case is in the appeal court, Malawians will have to wait again for a few more months. They have already endured, so there is nothing to stop them now from doing so again a little longer.
What is causing goose skin are the increasing threats of internecine strife that have gone viral on social media. Whether the threats are real or just a mind game on the five-judge panel hearing the case, we cannot tell. But what is for sure is that the threats rekindle memories of the dreaded high street running battles between demonstrators and police for the greater time the court was hearing the elections case. The running battles ended in violence, looting and destruction of property, injuries and loss of life. The effects of the political impasse the violence created are still upon us, and wreaking havoc on the economy.
The good reason for the demonstrations—the ‘bad child’ blamed for the violence and looting and organised by the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), was to force MEC chairperson Jane Ansah to resign for allegedly messing up the elections. But the gatherings provided a platform for supporters of both sides in the case to express their anger over a myriad of ills ranging from corruption, fraud, impunity, political disillusionment, anger, to economic instability.
Ansah did not resign as demanded by HRDC, but the group achieved its objective. The battle to make the court nullify the elections was fought at two levels. The first was psychological level through demonstrations. The protests and the ensuing political impasse provided a toxic background in which another fight—the battle of wits in the courts took place. It will be naïve to think that the poisoned political environment outside the court did not affect stakeholders in the case. What is without doubt is that the protests kept the fire burning; it was a constant reminder to all and sundry that the courts had an important and urgent case to deal with as many people kept saying the matter is in court.
But against all this madness, PAC was still able to keep its head above the water and talk the language of peace to most stakeholders—MCP, HRDC, Mutharika and Ansah. There is a lot of unfinished business on PAC’s table and there is no honey moon for the new executive board. PAC’s mediation job will not end the day the court will deliver its verdict on the case. As the new PAC chairperson has rightly said, the group should fight for the reintroduction of the electoral reforms previously unceremoniously thrown out of the House. Congratulations are therefore in order to the outgoing board for a job well done.