There is a saying in these parts of the world that often ring true in many ways than one. Here in Africa, we don’t speak while eating.
Well, for one, it’s the saying that excuses those benefiting from corrupt regimes from pointing any fingers at the corruption. It’s the maxim for sycophants and handclappers, as well as unscrupulous businesspersons and public officials plying on the trade. It’s the motto for party zealots benefiting from cronyism. Tribalists practising their cannibalisms on the state resources.
It’s how a few men ever speak out on principle, but only when they have nothing else to lose, or everything else to gain from expressing rage against status quo?
So, you would understand why Lazarus Chakwera has been fuming around town declaring May 21 elections to be fraudulent. Or why Saulos Chilima is also doing the same. Both men have missed out on the jackpot—the office with such enormous power and benefits. But, for goodness’ sake, what was president Peter Mutharika’s business joining the bandwagon of those discrediting the same polls, which declared him victor, this week?
Did you hear him? While Chakwera and Chilima are scrambling for lawyers to courts, supporters to the streets, and very pointed letters to the public and listening world, making their case to convince all and sundry that the elections were indeed fraudulent and hence should be scrapped off, who on earth could have imagined that the winner, too, would give them a hand in building such a case.
Well, I am a layman on matters of law and Professor Mutharika is a well-read professor of letters in this very trade, but hearing the president this week claim that the opposition should be investigated for playing the ‘tippex game’ on his vote in parts of Central Region, was puzzling.
It’s a bizarre declaration. Which raises a whole specter of questions over the credibility of the elections, and in extension, ostensibly, the legitimacy of the whole elections. In the end, Justice Jane Ansah now is the lone voice when it comes to the notion that the vote is beyond reproach. All the three major candidates now say the vote was somehow tippexed and in court of public opinion, it’s a difficult sale to insist otherwise.
That brings us to the letter which Chilima purportedly authored addressing concerns about Ansah’s conduct. Prior to the leaking of the letter (by whoever it was), Chilima had threatened to release contents of the paper upon expiry of the five-day ultimatum for Ansah to leave the stage. The accusations of the letter remain subject for the courts and had to engage on without the benefit of the evidence but with that matter withstanding, isn’t Mutharika’s fresh comment now rendering Ansah’s position untenable?
In this age of the Internet, while the allegations against Ansah do not mean that she is guilty of them but a Supreme Court justice coming from a tradition where judges recuse themselves at slight accusations of bias, the jury is not out on whether Ansah now has to wash her hands off the office of the electoral body to allow some investigation into the more serious allegations against her office.
But even without delving into those complex matters, haven’t most folks already raised eyebrows over the supreme court judge for allowing herself to be pictured smiling with the ruling party cadets in the immediate aftermath of the elections. Was it that difficult to predict that the losing party, seeing those pictures, would jump on them as evidence of impropriety hence evidence of some bias whether founded or not?
Now this is not to suggest or hint that Ansah is guilty of anything, but with such circumstances, isn’t it then only fair that stepping aside would be an appropriate thing to do.
At a time the civil society is seeking to conduct a whole demonstration just to push her out, three major parties say the elections were marred by serious irregularities, where is Ansah’s pride in keeping to a job whose crucial stakeholders don’t want her anywhere near it.
The vote of confidence, whether explicit or implicit, has been loud and clear. And after all the planning and her best efforts at characterising these elections as free, fair and credible, the unprecedented protests in the streets, the teargas, the tippex, court cases, all leave an egg in Ansah’s face.
They disapprove that these elections were anything but free, fair and credible.