Helter-skelter

Malawi is at a crossroads. Things are moving faster than one could ever imagine and ultimately, the fate of this nation; its future prosperity, the economy, the viability of our hard earned democracy, the health of our children, relations with foreign nations, are all up for grabs.

And we do all have not only a stake in the events that will determine the destiny of our nation, but, ultimately, responsibility and duties. That, may mean—in the here and now—the unemployed youth refusing to vent all their frustration by turning to vandalism and violence but clinging to hope that a better Malawi can still be purchased through peaceful means.

It means a police officer refusing to see their role as agent of the State but servants of the public, restraining themselves from using the weapons at their disposal from their deadly potency unless situation requires so. A politician resisting the temptation to use the podium and megaphone to unleash dangerous currents to his or her followers that could set our nation on fire. Or a High Court judge sitting on a panel of judges to decide the destiny of this country, rejecting and reporting any attempts to sway their decision with money.

For we do not know what tomorrow brings, but we know this with gruesome certainty, that our country is on the edge and we must trade carefully. This is a moment of flux, as the irreplaceable Ralph Tenthani would have it. The centre can no longer hold and this country, for decades an oasis of peace and tranquility rightly christened the Warm Heart of Africa, is about to be tested in a manner like never before. We knew this day was coming, but sadly it has arrived without much of preparation.

Judgment day is coming. And this, folks, is an unchartered territory. The panel of five judges will deliver a ruling so momentous and divisive, regardless of which side of the political divide, in an atmosphere of hate, fear and division. Dialogue has failed. Dialogue has been rejected. Dialogue has been postponed.

But the trial at the courts has gripped everyone—young and old. And now, everyone has a side. A look again at the political map redrawn after the doomed May 21 2019 elections suggests that just as the vote, the judgment of the Supreme Court will be received differently in the North, Centre and South. And that is a danger lurking.

The sheer numbers of protesters who have persistently demonstrated against the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) mean any ruling against the opposition will likely send us to the precipice and the fact that Peter Mutharika won 38.5 percent of the vote means that any opposition victory in court will also send his backers spoiling for a fight.

But all that, can be stopped. It’s not too late for our leaders to come to their senses and with civility unite to ensure the aftermath of the elections are nowhere as troubled as some of us fear. It’s never too late for common sense.

And it’s not just the leaders of parties with a responsibility, how about media, civil society, chiefs, churches, international community? All have a role to play. In that regard, it must be clear then, that calling civil society groups like HRDC “terrorist group” as the public broadcaster did on Thursday only adds fuel to the fire engulfing this nation.

That also mean that the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), which has received a complaint from the Chief Justice on behalf of the panel of five judges hearing the elections case, acting with speed and caution in investigating and if evidence points at criminality, those implicated in attempts to bribe the judges. That will restore confidence in the judiciary, justice system and our democratic experiment. That will remove pretext for some people to punch holes in the forthcoming judgment or unleash the helter-skelter that we fear awaits on the horizon.

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