Amid the current hoopla of arguments and counter-arguments over the Electoral Eeforms Bills, particularly the 50+1 proposed provision—and the near controversy and consternation it has attracted—it is hard to tell who is telling the truth.
For starters, the pugilists in this heavyweight fight are refusing to accept the gauntlet and declare which corner of the boxing ring they are taking. They want to fight, but only in the dark.
Where you expected government to come clean and declare that its dilly-dallying on the bills is a tactic to kill the stream off the Bills, without any shame whatsoever, the responsible Cabinet members keep promising all and sundry that the Bills are coming, one way or another, while none is tabled.
Not for the very first time, government has turned to shadowy characters, namely some unscrupulous chiefs and bogus civil society gurus to make the case against the championing of the Bills. You can guess them, the same characters who always defend unaccountability in government and its other excesses.
Only an off-script Grace Chiumia—yes our good erratic Cabinet friend—has fluffed the official lines and come out clean on government’s true position on the matter. She told a rally that government doesn’t want 50+1.
Thanks ‘Obama’, you may often be uncouth and erratic, but we are happy you are always uneconomical with your piece of mind, and your speeches are always a goldmine for those of us in the business of scoops!
But when you expected the Lazarus Chakwera-led opposition to be different by being a bit forthright on the matter, its words and actions tell a sad story. All you see are words of threats and demands to government. Lacking is action from Chakwera and company.
Questions ought to be asked: Why has MCP not tabled a Private Member’s motion with 50+1 and when one of its members tabled a private motion on electoral reforms, it didn’t have the provision? Why did Chakwera and company not walk away from the House until a newspaper article questioned his party’s commitment on the matter?
Answers to these questions are both illuminating and revealing.
Then, we had the whole sitting Vice-President—our good Catholic Saulos Chilima—reading the letter inviting fellow Catholics to march against his own government. We are told, this was an innocent and uncalculated move.
Who is fooling who?
From this end, to be very raw, as the magnanimous former Nation Publications Limited (NPL) managing editor, the late Edward Chitsulo, would have it; the masses are being screwed big time.
To speak without censorship, all the political parties—DPP, MCP, UDF, and PP—are scared of the bill for political calculations. Primarily, it’s because, by nature, politicians, especially our version, only cares about self-preservation.
So, all what we are seeing is a symptom of their political calculus come 2019 and not necessarily about a profound debate about the merits of the Bill or not. This is why UDF is quite on the Bill. This is why PP stayed in the House after MCP walked out; remember PP is now flirting with DPP. It’s all a matter of electability in 2019.
This is why, Malawians should not listen to Chief Lundu, Chakwera, Mutharika, Kondwani Nankhumwa or some civil society sell-outs.
Instead, Malawians, who love this country, must read carefully the recommendations of the Justice Anthony Kamanga-led Special Law Commission, which has spent taxpayer and donor money consulting the same political parties, chiefs, civil society, ordinary Malawians, lawyers and foreign jurisdictions to form a basis for recommendations to change the law.
And after decades of searching to tighten up the electoral system, while it’s true that no single law can solve all our problems, and that the country has equally or even more pressing matters requiring our attention, this law reform exercise is urgent and necessary business in its own right. It must be concluded now.
The question of timing doesn’t suffice. Let’s not be fooled, after all the years of consultations, if the law is not wanted by Malawians, let us end the debate in Parliament once and for all, because even if its submitted in a decade time, its merits and demerits will be the same.
They won’t change because the political calculation of either the opposition or government has changed.