Whodunit? Muckraker on Malawi ballot arson

It’s not what you look at that mattersit’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau 

What was Willie Kalonga high on when he rushed to make that thoughtless, if not senseless, statement that the Tuesday mysterious fire that gutted the Mec warehouse in Lilongwe was being treated as ‘a normal fire accident’ by the good people at the electoral body?

I am glad that Mec chair Justice Maxon Mbendera was quick to chastise his Chief Elections Officer and actually used the right adjective when he described Kalonga’s statement as ‘careless’.

Look, there is a temptation for many simplistic people to look at issues as single events, not trends. But in the scheme of things, we need to look at trends to extrapolate patterns and make sense of the situation.

Men trying to put off the fire at MEC warehouse---Picture by Rebecca Chimjeka, NPL on Twitter

Men trying to put off the fire at MEC warehouse—Picture by Rebecca Chimjeka, NPL on Twitter

For example, the Lilongwe fire came amid a prospective recount of votes. From whence we come, we know how a certain party has been up in arms against any talk of recount of votes.

Whatever is in the ballot boxes, the DPP does not want to have it seen, examined or recounted. That is why, as their white-collared defenders were battling it out in courts to prevent the opening of the ballot boxes, their blue-collared fanatics were busy in the streets protesting against ballot boxes that mysteriously pitched up in the streets.

As mysterious as they appeared, the ballot boxes disappeared from the streets as soon as the battle was “won” via that nocturnal court ruling that gave their candidate the one-way ticket to Kamuzu Palace.

But when the spectre of the word ‘recount’ reared its ugly head again in Lilongwe, the circus started all over again…court injunctions, stay orders and everything…until whatever was in those boxes was just incinerated.

I am not suggesting that the DPP ‘did the deed’, but it was evident that whatever was in those 2,400 ballot boxes there were some people who could kill to ensure that it was not to be seen forever by anybody, including themselves.

So the initial reaction from Mec was most interesting. Amid all these Kalonga had the audacity to treat the inferno as a “normal fire”. C’mon, good people! This statement, coming from the whole Mec CEO himself, meant that, if it was considered a normal fire, then the place would not be considered a ‘crime scene’ and, therefore, there was no need to secure it. Which meant, in the intervening time, critical tell-tale evidence could have been tampered with or spirited away altogether.

But Mec should have been the first to suspect foul play. It was not as if nothing was happening. There was a vote recount about to take place for crying out loud!

Ask yourselves, how many buildings does Mec have interests in across the country. I know coincidences happen daily, but Mec should have questioned why this particular warehouse in Lilongwe was gutted down at that particular time.

You do not have to be a Hercules Poirot to know that that is where you start asking questions from. You start interrogating motive and interest.

It is also interesting that Nicholas Dausi, him of the tongue-twister verbs, and his band of sleuths decided to take an interest in the fire. While the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) should naturally take an interest in such mysteries, we all know how our NIB is constituted.

For starters, the head of NIB himself is not only a DPP National Executive Committee member; he is actually the party’s whole spokesman for crying out loud!

This, therefore, means he is a very interested party.

Are we that naïve to believe that if, God forbid, investigations pointed to the fact that the DPP was somehow culpable, such investigations could continue with a DPP top dog at the head of such investigations?

I am not suggesting, in any way, that the DPP played some naughty games in the Mec Lilongwe warehouse inferno, but we need to be serious as a country how we handle things.

We have had too many unexplained fires in the country. An accounts office at a ministry at Capital Hill went up in smoke in the middle of serious financial probe, we are yet to learn what happened several years later. In the recent past, the entire Escom House was reduced to smithereens; a commission of inquiry was instituted but we will be waiting for ‘Godot’ if we expect answers.

How many times will we burn ourselves to hell?

Justice Mbendera, the Mec chair, said a serious probe is on on the Lilongwe midnight fire. Let us have results for once. If it is a ‘normal fire’, as Willie Kalonga would like us to believe, let us prove it.

But if someone wanted to hide something in soot, let us have it too.

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