Finally. Finally! Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) head Jane Ansah is out after losing her court case challenging the decision by the Constitutional Court annulling last May’s presidential poll. Is the coast now clear?
Ansah’s refusal to leave would have had a decisive influence on the outcome of the court-ordered fresh poll which we are yet to know if it will take place. Opposition Malawi Congress Party and United Transformation Movement had taken the matter to court, arguing that Ansah had put her thumb on the scale for the incumbent, Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The court agreed and there was apprehension over Ansah– who didn’t want to resign — presiding over the upcoming election as pointed out in Counterjab: A nutjob still at MEC, Malawi shouldn’t expect an honest presidential poll.
Before he showed up on the local scene, Mutharika had been away for 40 years. He got his law degree in the UK and spent most of those four decades in the United States (U.S.) where he taught law. Malawi’s founding president Kamuzu Banda, whose policies forced Mutharika to flee the country soon after gaining independence from Great Britain in 1964, also spent his 40 years in the same countries — UK and U.S. — where Mutharika sojourned. Kamuzu, who became a medical doctor in the U.S. before moving to the UK, was in power for 30 years. Mutharika and DPP together 14, which is close to half of Dr. Banda’s time on the job.
Elected Malawi president in 2014, what’s Mutharika’s record? Spotty at best. That he worked and lived among the best where laziness is not rewarded isn’t self-evident. He comes across as uninterested and right from the time he held different cabinet positions in the government of his elder brother Bingu, he was never seen as proactive on several crises one being when he was education minister and the fight for academic freedom saw the University of Malawi being shut down.
Possibly two more things characterize his presidency: Plunder of public resources and patronage — public appointments influenced by nepotism–and the latter raises the question of the president having too much power and appointing unqualified people to important positions. Memo to Parliament: President has too much power. Amend the Constitution!
Mediocre leadership in Malawi preceded Mutharika and we can start counting from 1994 when the country did away with the single-party system and started experimenting with democracy. The only exception to this sad state was Bingu’s first term: 2004-2009. During Kamuzu’s time, national hospitals and schools had supplies they needed, teachers were paid their salaries on time and the civil service was professional.
Talk of travel: Malawi, whose national airline is now owned by Ethiopia Airlines, was, during Kamuzu’s time, something to be proud of. Air Malawi’s VC10 flew between Chileka, Malawi and Gatwick, UK in the late 1970s to early 1980s before the aircraft was retired. British Airways, KLM, the flag carrier of the Netherlands, would fly to Malawi. All the governments that came after Kamuzu failed to maintain the infrastructure he built. Not long ago the main runway at Chileka Airport had potholes which forced international carriers to avoid the airport that had fallen into disrepair.
What amazes those who see Malawi getting worse since ending the single party system is the insistence by DPP that Mutharika remain in power by any means. Mutharika and Ansah were in cahoots when they showed no desire to cooperate whatsoever after the CC rendered its judgement. Party leaders followed suit and the country witnessed the coarsening of political discourse as evidenced by use of uncivilized language at political rallies and on state-run TV and radio aimed at human rights activists and the opposition.
It’s true, of course, that partisanship is part of the air we all breathe but it appears status quo supporters choose to be fundamentalist — easier than reason — which allows them not to think but act on emotions to destroy whatever they think would disrupt the status quo from which they benefit. Kamuzu’s party did indeed fight to thwart the introduction of democracy, but he caved after seeing the writing on the wall. Memo to Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority: Stop discriminating against independent media and wash out with soap the mouth of Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC). It belongs to all, not just the ruling party.
After Ansah decided to head for the hills, MBC asked the former MEC chief if there was anything she could have done differently. “I don’t regret,” said Ansah in denial mode. “I did the best.” This response should be welcomed in the world of DPP where the number of people who can be persuaded by fact and argument is vanishingly small. Case in point: Minister Nicholas Dausi with the bad habit of saying things that fly in the face of hard evidence. Memo to Ansah: Your appeal in the Supreme Court fell flat on its face. Stop being a feckless, psychopathic lawyer with awful delusions. Doubt history will be kind to you, but you probably don’t care.
Looking ahead, Malawians, who see success stories coming out of neighbouring Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda, question what sin Malawi committed and are demanding change, and rightly so. As they head into perhaps the most consequential election since 1994, Malawians deserve to congratulate themselves for not giving up the fight to be led by a president who won fair and square and not one chosen by some fixer.
Memo to civil society groups: Since the dawn of democracy, you have, again and again, spoken truth to power. Keep at it regardless of who is in office. Memo to united opposition on the cusp of a possible victory: Malawians have suffered enough, now is the time for shakers and movers, not haters and fakers. Don’t blow it.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :