Say what you want to say about Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Justice Jane Ansah, we all will, but here is something about this woman: she is brave and courageous.
And the fact that she presented herself for a media interview on the election case this week, ordinarily suggests that Ansah has nothing to hide—and that’s very healthy development.
But before we lose the plot in needless “praise and worship”, Ansah’s interview with Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) left us with more questions than answers— to say the least. A more uncensored view would be: a complete PR disaster. I will belabour to explain.
Firstly, Ansah consented to the interview fully aware that the matters under discussion were in court. Nothing wrong talking about matters in court, on principle and, indeed, oftentimes public officers disingenuously run away from accountability by rejecting press inquiries simply because matters are in court.
So kudos madam!
The trouble is, the good Supreme Court judge used exactly the same subjudice law principle to fend many questions as well or responding only aspects of them.
Well, in a polarised moment like this one, the resultant accusations that she was cherry-picking the questions out of convenience, other than legal questions, was, well, expected.
One glaring abuse of this principle, arguably, was when Ansah was asked about calls for her resignation. Host Joab Chakhaza asked her something close to this: “Madam, the people are protesting, the three main candidates—including the winner—says there was rigging and yourself admitted that there were irregularities, can you resign on principle?”
Her answer? “Let’s wait for the court case!”
That, folks, doesn’t add up. People of integrity resign from office even when they have committed no crime but out of principle—and Ansah’s position is far more untenable since the crucial electoral stakeholders say she should go.
And with MEC being accused of aiding the very alleged rigging, her resignation is very necessary for justice not only to be done but to be seen to be done. As a senior court, that principle too shouldn’t be lost on her.
But one thing that destroyed Ansah’s charm offensive was her inconsistencies.
In one breath, she was telling the nation to hold its fire until the electoral case, yet MEC is refusing to allow the courts to hear the opposition petition against the election results.
Ansah further told us— plebeians and laymen on law— that election case rulings by the High Court are not appealable, yet her Commission’s lawyers are appealing preliminary objections of a High Court hearing in the electoral case simply to block the court case.
Look, folks, the learned judge went on to lecture us that she believed the electoral system was watertight, yet MEC accepted result sheets that were altered by Tippex—or whatever correction fluid that might’ve been employed.
If we are to be very frank, Ansah’s next claim that she took pictures with DPP supporters because she doesn’t recognise any party regalia (because she doesn’t watch TV), almost cast her as more than disingenuous and cast everything else she said under a shadow.
Surely, Ansah knows DPP party colours. Why she opted to tell a non-truth here (I don’t want to call the judge a liar) is anyone’s guess.
We all saw Ansah in her capacity as MEC chairperson receiving DPP presidential nomination papers where there was a sea of DPP supporters. And let’s just cut this crap, anyone in this country, including my six-year-old son, can tell who is DPP supporter, UTM or MCP based on their cloth.
Dr Garton Kamchedzera, a respected law professor, has argued, madam chairperson should have steered clear of this interview, arguing that Ansah’s actions were tantamount to influencing the court— arguing she used a platform where those holding an opposing view in the court case could not respond.
Well, that’s a legal view. But my raw view—straight from the streets—is that madam did little to inspire confidence to the public that she is telling the truth, too. If not for the glaring inconsistencies, then the disengenious points like the DPP colours or failing to recollect immediately that she has spoken to the President or pointed to a witness who was either unreliable or disingenuous.
It might be the tension in the air; maybe nerves; or even slips of the tongue. It can be poor memory, a bit of bias, error of judgment or anything. Whatever led to this failed charm offensive forms part of a pattern in which a good part of the citizenry, civil society and opposition—all crucial stakeholders to the process— have formed an opinion that Ansah is no longer fit to hold her office.