The day is February 3rd 2020, the streets of Malawi are eerily silent. Almost all shops and offices are closed, just few cars on the roads, street vendors complaining of lack of business. Everywhere, people are seen huddled around a radio, almost each house blasting one of the radio stations. Supposedly one of the biggest day for radio stations, with skyrocketed ratings. It is Judgment Day, or at least that is the word being used to describe the major event happening on the day in the country. This is the day that Malawi writes a new chapter of history, just like the 1994 democratic revolution was written. A history I was proud to see happen, and wanted to share my own views on.
A little background, shall we….
On May 21st, 2019, Malawians (most of them) lined up in their constituency polling centers to cast their votes in the Tripartite Elections. On the 28th May, Prof Peter_Mutharika was announced winner of the elections, a decision that was not taken lightly by the opposition leaders. This saw the birth of the Elections Case 2019 at the Constitutional Court.
The hearing of the case would then start in July 2019, with the two petitioners, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and United Transformation Movement (UTM) seeking for the court to nullify the votes from the 2019 election. This petition was taken against Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC).
The petitioners were challenging the elections that were taking, stating irregularities with the votes, mostly caused by Tipp-EX. While most students and I would wonder why Tipp-Ex would be an issue considering the amount of times it has saved our lives when it comes to correcting errors in assignments. Well, the petitioners’ argument rested on the idea that rigging was in fact done using the correction fluid.
With that, a case was opened, and for close to four months, we would glue ourselves to the radio to listen to the proceedings in court. And during this time, most Malawians would go to the streets to demonstrate, demanding the resignation of MEC’s chair commissioner, Justice Dr Jane_Ansah S.C . The second woman to hold the position after Justice Anastasia_Msosa S.C. And all those demands were denied by the Justice, she stated in an interview that a lose from the ConCourt would make her leave office.
It was also during this time, when some events would knock us out of our chairs with laughter. One of the funniest moments was when Mr Alfandika, MEC’s Chief Elections Officer and witness, sweated profusely on the bench. This started the Alfandika challenge on Facebook and Twitter.
All through the proceedings, Malawians learned with shock of some of the procedures that were undertaken by the electoral body during the elections. This was the case with Daud Suleman, a witness for MCP who testified on the shortfalls that were there on MEC’s side technologically wise. At the same time, the case saw a friendship between leaders from the opposition leaders, Dr Saulos_Chilima and Dr Lazarus_Chakwera. The truest depiction of
“the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
December 21st approached and the final statements from all camps were made, including those from Friends of Court. The five judges stated that 45 days was all they would need to out with their final judgment of the case. And so the waiting begun.
Back to February 3rd, and almost the whole Malawi is glued to the radio station. It was Judgement Day. It is announced that the whole judgment is 500 pages long, thus all pages would be read out.
I can assure you, everyone groaned. I mean everyone. A whole novel was about to be read on the radio, but still, we had no choice to listen. That was because, regardless of how long that judgment, everyone understood that history was in the making. No one wanted to be be left behind it all. So, we stuck around. Let me correct myself, it was not 500 pages being read, but rather 1000. That is if we add the 500 pages of Chichewa translation that were also being read out loud on the same day.
The reading begun, and while most tried to understand all that was said, it should be known that we did not. However, all those that work in the legal system were having the time of their lives.
It was just past 7pm when I heard screams from my neighbors, although some could have been from me.
Malawi’s 2019 Presidential Results were ANNULLED. Did I say Malawi’s 2019 presidential results were annulled? Yes, Malawi’s 2019 presidential election results were annulled.
What was the ruling? Here are some of the pointers:
- It was established that the voting process was marred by irregularities
- 147 complaints (madando) had not been resolved prior to the announcement of the winner
- The use of Tipp-Ex and lack of monitor’s signatures
The judges announced that fresh elections be conducted in 150 days. Probably one of the most important establishments was that of 50+1. Parliament was asked to enact on that, which would change the political landscape as the president was to win by 51+1% of votes. Which is contrary from the norm, presidents win by having slightly more votes than the opponent.
What has happened after the ruling?
The drama does not want to cease. In fact, some one tweeted about everything happening in Malawi being a great comedy show. Days after the results were annulled, everything has been moving fast. So fast that we could be losing track with time.
Based on what was presented in the court’s judgement, the Public Appointments Committee (PAC) started conducting meetings with the current MEC commissioners. This was done to analyse their competency in handling the upcoming Presidential Elections to be held. Just like the court proceedings, these meetings were aired on radio stations to the public. And what was revealed was nothing but shocking.
Some of the highlights were:
- Commissioner Nkosi’s “Wasn’t Me’ moment, were she spewed all that happened at MEC. Just to later ask the PAC Chairperson to keep it all as a secret, when all Malawians heard. A bad snitching job! She also spewed that commissioners only signed the final result sheet on the morning of President Mutharika’s swearing in and not before a winner was announced as stated by law.
- Commissioner Ntafu’s “In my other life, I was a blonde.” She seemed so oblivious and unsure of what to and not to say.
- Commissioner Kunje’s “I don’t give a damn” moment. Unfortunately, although some of her words were true, she laced them with so much rudeness and spice.
- Jane Ansah’s colorful poses before being thrashed by PAC
While the interviews were taking place, MEC had also applied to the court for a stay order for the February 3rd ruling, and a notification for appeal. Likewise, DPP also submitted notifications for an appeal.
On February 12th, just after PAC’s meeting with Jane Ansah had concluded, the court read out its judgement on the stay order. MEC, yet again, was rebuffed and the stay order thrown out out of the window.
Let me head out this way……
The 1994 referendum birthed democracy in the country. But this election case and the results were what cemented democracy. We might not see that yet, but in a few years, we will be able to see the fruits.
At this point, it all goes down to waiting. Waiting for June when we cast a new vote. Waiting to see the results of the appeal. Just waiting.
Like I said before, when Malawi’s 2019 results were annulled, we started a new leaf of history of Malawi’s politics.