What’s at stake in Malawi’s Tippex elections fiasco

It would be a mistake to be holding pretests and demonstrations with a misguided belief that the solution to Malawi’s problems is simply the resignation of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah, or the holding of fresh presidential elections if that is what is ultimately ordered by the courts in the ongoing court case. Malawi has reached a very crucial juncture of its democracy and there is more at stake in the social upheaval we are now going through than simply democratically and transparently choosing a new leader.

Protests over disputed presidential elections in Malawi

That is not to say that the protests are not important. On the contrary, they are very necessary and must be sustained with even greater vigilance when what is really at stake is fully understood. After all, one of the fundamental rights of citizens enshrined in the Malawi constitution is the right to demonstrate. It is a very powerful right which if used correctly, can lead to essential changes to the governance structures that we have.

As we all know, since the dawn of democracy in 1994, Malawi has had a fair share of institutional failures because of a weak overall governance structure. In general, despite having remedies that are supposed to address all failures, the current governance structure has failed to deal with a culture of corruption, abuse of power by the president and so-called “ruling party” members.

These failures are responsible for the incompetent and unreliable government officials believing that they are untouchable and refusing to resign even when it is evident that the majority of the people they serve have lost confidence in them.

A good example is the current impasse between the citizenry and the MEC chairperson Jane Ansah.Major demonstrations have been taking place to force Jane Ansah to resign because of her incompetent and poor handling of the May 21 elections, and yet Jane Ansah refuses to resign, and has even managed to convince some DPP women to cry and mourn and even march in her defence.

As the general public demonstrates and remonstrates against Jane Ansah and for new elections to be held, however, it is important to bear in mind that many reforms that were suggested by institutions like the Law Commission have failed to materialize because those individuals (often politicians) responsible for initiating the process of reform are the ones enjoying the status quo. They therefore cannot change what is making them stinking rich and helping them swim in absolute power.

As a matter of fact, the abuse of power by president and his cronies has reached a point where the police, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation, Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority, and even institutions like the Malawi revenue Authority no longer work for all Malawians but rather work for the so-called ruling party.

Although the term “ruling party” is itself a misnomer in Malawi’s governance framework and unrecognized by the republican constitution, these so-called ruling party cadres control government institutions and take the law into their own hands. They cause havoc and behave lawlessly because they are protected by the president and his party and can go without being restrained or arrested.

During the protests referred to above, it had to take the Malawi Defense Force soldiers to put them in their place when these political party cadets started beating up protesters who were demanding electoral justice and the resignation of MEC chair Jane Ansah.

The botched-up election, the refusal of Jane Ansah to resign, and the need for soldiers to protect citizens’ rights when there is no war in the country all point to one very fundamental fact: The country’s governance framework is rotten and desperately in need of a complete overhaul.  Malawians should not need the army to be the solution to domestic upheavals when there is a working police service in the country.

This state of affairs is what brings us to the point that I made at the beginning. What is at stake in the protests and in the public anger in Malawi is not simply the need for Jane Ansah to resign or for fresh presidential elections to be held.The country is going to continue drifting until serious governance reforms are implemented.Given that those that ascend into power have so far all been unwilling to implement the needed reforms, it is imperative during this opportunity of public upheaval to demand that the country should not return to business as usual until there is a momentous and radical change in our governance and constitutional order.

When this is fully understood, the real question that needs pursuing by the protesters and demonstrators becomes who is going to initiate the necessary reforms that will help the country. The answer is very simple. Not the courts or the politicians, but the people. The people must not wait. They cannot afford to wait. The time is now, during this period when people are unhappy and looking to change the future of Malawi, to demand a complete overhaul of the governance structures and bring about the necessary changes that will ensure that no political party will ever take Malawians for granted again.

As a continuation of the current demonstrations, the citizens should demand the following changes:

First and foremost, the amalgamation of a parliamentary democracy together with a presidential one is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Having a presidency in whom is vested all the powers of state, while also we continue to carry over some political party power means that democracy is defeated because we are neither a proper republic or a proper parliamentary democracy but a mixture of the two. This is what gives our so-called ruling parties powers that they should not have, and creates the undesirable framework of patronage, nepotism and corruption.

I suggest that the constitution should be amended to remove the requirement for voting in a president and make Malawi a proper parliamentary democracy where the voters vote simply for Members of parliament or for a political party, and then letting the political parties choose the leadership.

Secondly, the powers of the leadership (presidency in this case, but prime minister or president in the case where the above amendment is implemented) should be curbed to ensure that appointments are not used as carrots and rewards for demanding loyalty from boot lickers and bribing critics.

Thirdly, laws such as electoral laws, laws guiding the appointment of heads of government institutions such as the Anti-corruption Bureau should be reviewed urgently to reflect international standards and the will of the majority of the Malawian public.

Additionally, it is important to review the aspects of the constitution that guide the way Malawians are represented in parliament to ensure that the voting public is not given a raw deal. This should include the re-introduction of a senate as a secondary legislative body, and important guidelines for parliamentarians such as recall provisions and a clearer definition of “crossing the floor” in Parliament. An elected official, whether on a party or independent ticket should not be allowed to change their allegiance after being elected.

It is also necessary to bar individuals from being both an MP as well as a cabinet minister to ensure proper checks and balances and separation of powers.

These demonstrations are a golden opportunity to correct the wrongs that the coming of democracy in 1994 failed to correct. Those organizing and leading the protests need to bear in mind that there are more serious, root solutions that are required for the country than simply for Jane Ansah to resign or for fresh elections to be held. The country does not needsimply a superficial window-dressing of the governance problem. It needs a comprehensive treatment of the underlying causes.

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Joloza
Guest

Good writing from a corrupt mind. Allan is another frustrsted guy in as far as Malawi politics is concerned. He was a pro DPP from 2004 to 2011. We could see him on different media platforms supporting Bingu with his friend who was a lecture at Catholic University including MBC that he is speaking against. I believe he was given a banzi by the dpp admin that time. If it was this time, we could have said he was tipexed. From nowhere things changed. He became anti DPP after Bingu died and (Ntata)fled Malawi just after ascendancy of Joyce Banda… Read more »

Joni
Guest
Joni

Joloza, be objective please!

Mbolo
Guest
Mbolo

This is another nonsense.Then why do people go for elections?Is MEC chair given mandate to pick anybody who contest to be president? Would John Chisi picked by Chair ,would it differ with Peter as her choice for Malawi.With this behavior ,Would Malawians respect these Judges.

Freedom Fighter
Guest

Well written n well elaborated article Allan. Hope the majority mass reads this, and do seriously n truly show their patriotism and do actually act and do bring a real change and end the Mafia rule by DPP once and for all. Enough is enough now, as the looting has left the entire country’s social delivery services in shatters. Time is now, and you are absolutely right, that, we MUST act now and kick out these dpp thugs n looters now, and then ONLY our nation’s and youth’s future is safe n sound and bright, otherwise we totally doomed if… Read more »

phiri
Guest
phiri

The writer has been given a very big scone

Anti-Demos Vigilante
Guest
Anti-Demos Vigilante

Don’t use the MDF beatings of DPP cadets in BT as a yardstick that people dont want this govt. It is not the first time MDF has been used to quell political violence. In 1992 MDF was used to demilitarise MYP, a notorious and brutal armed security wing of MCP. In 1999 there were violence after MEC announced that Muluzi was retained to power. The MDF was used again to pacify the situation. I still remember one of headings ” SOLDIER TAKEOVER” in one of the then daily papers. Demonstrators sung the Lucius Banda new song as the MDF patrolled… Read more »

Shamwa
Guest
Shamwa

Asking for radical reforms is next to impossible
First lets go for 50+1 later zinazo

Rodrick
Guest
Rodrick

Mmmmm I disagree with the point that JAne is leading her normal life. Some of us who have known her for some time kow pretty well that she is not herself. Even those of us that congregate with her at CCI have noted that. She might have done that out of hunger for money but for sure she might have done against her supposedly sipiritual consious

Zali
Guest
Zali

Bodza a Rodrick, I don’t think you neither know Jane nor congregate with her

Joni
Guest
Joni

Go and see how she looks now and compare her the way she was looking before elections

Joni
Guest
Joni

Spiritual suffering and guilt!

Innoxy Charles
Guest
Innoxy Charles

Well formed and understood article.I feel better when i see writings which criticise stupid conducts by ruling parties where every leader ensure corruption before leaving the position to keep malawians in sufferings all the time.These are not true leaders but they are just messengers of SATAN, but Almighty is watching…….

Bilex sibale
Guest
Bilex sibale

Solution ndi Chilima.

Nick
Guest
Nick

When I see the picture here of thousands of Malawians protesting the election I wonder whether I have read as many words of mr Alan Ntata over the years on the subject of constitutional reform in Malawi! All those good people and all those good words demanding justice and democracy — and ALL GOING NOWHERE. Why going nowhere? For the reasons identified by Mr Ntata in his sixth paragraph: “They (the politicians) cannot change what is making them stinking rich and helping them swim in absolute power” Root-and-branch reform is NOT coming to Malawi, as demanded by Ntata, now, if… Read more »