February 4 2020
Oh! How time flies! It seems like yesterday when some Malawians crammed the Constitutional Court in Lilongwe while many more were glued to their radio and TV sets to listen to the landmark ruling that upset May 21 2019 presidential elections results!
Wednesday marked a year after it became clear that, with substantive evidence, challenging presidential polls is possible, not a dog-barking-at-the-moon affair that it appeared to be.
For about eight months, Malawians and the world at large had waited, pregnant with patient expectation, the outcome of the polls case. Here, UTM Party president Saulos Chilima and his Malawi Congress Party (MCP) counterpart Lazarus Chakwera were challenging Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) which declared Peter Mutharika as winner of the Tipexed elections.
Coming under heavy military escort, the five judges Healey Potani, Ivy Kamanga, Redson Kapindu, Michael Tembo and Dingiswayo Madise called for a fresh election. In brief, the judges found the polls had widespread, systematic and grave irregularities.
As the court proceedings progressed, Malawians went on the streets calling for MEC chair Jane Ansah’s head. But she was going nowhere but the Supreme Court where seven judges with Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda upheld the lower court ruling, calling the appeal who dismissed the MEC appeal grounds as ‘embarrassing, fictitious, convoluted and distasteful’.
We eventually saw the five ConCourt judges getting the 2020 Chatham House Award since ‘the ruling came at a time when standards of democratic governance are under threat. The judges set an example to their peers across the world.’
This was the second time an election was overturned in Africa, after Kenya but the first where the looser in the initial poll eventually became winner.
But why should we remember February 3 every year? It is a mark on our timeline that the rule of the law, active civil participation and the separation of powers are the very particles of the blood of democracy.
We learned that, after all, there are still a few good people who stand for virtue even in the face of corruption. Remember some are alleged to have tried to palm oil the judges.
The outcome also showed us as a Republic we have been ruled illegally by some presidents who didn’t satisfy the 50% plus one mark. February 3 pointed to a different direction that only those in power should get in on delegation from the majority of voters.
Further, February 3 showed us that Malawi needs no more than three serious parties for us to move from useless politicking. We need our own homegrown left, right and centre political ideologies.
But then, February 3 also showed us that we live in comfort zones far too long. For that matter, why is it that the people who wasted our time with the court case with their selfish desires still walking the corridors of MEC? Not only that, the case cost the tax payer so much, yet no-one has answered for that crime.
One year is gone since Malawians got a fresh poll. Mainly, Malawians felt Mutharika and his DPP had taken Malawians for granted for too long. Is the Tonse Alliance showing that things have really changed?
Doubtful, since campaign promises are far from being fulfilled, uncalled for expenditure as seen in Covid 19 funds depletion, seems to continue as the order of the day while Malawians continue to duffer on the street.
February 3 came and went. The significance of the day remains and should not be watered down.