Lessons from Presidential Election case

The Constitutional Court, comprising High Court judges Healey Potani, Ivy Kamanga, Redson Kapindu, Mike Tembo and Dingiswayo Madise, on Monday made the landmark ruling that nullified the May 21 2019 polls. The ruling, ending months of a stand-off, was followed, not only by Malawians but people from other lands, if the international media coverage it got is anything to go by.

With the ruling, UTM Party president Saulos Chilima reverted to be Vice President to President Peter Mutharika. The judges recommended several issues to Parliament as well as smoothening to the running of the elections within 150 days.

All is well that ends well.What lessons, then, do we draw from the case?

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 sets a standard that peace, justice and strong institutions are prerequisites for development. These are the pillars of democracy, which the ruling engraved on stone.

We have seen an independent judiciary that has acted in a manner that most agree justice was seen to be done. When Chilima and Chakwera presented different cases, before different judges, it was recommended that the two cases be treated as one, in a Constitutional Court.

That referral of the cases to a Constituitional Court brought relief to many, unlike in the past such cases were tried by one judge and how they ended, it was difficult to follow.

To ensure that Malawians access information they need, the judges allowed radio stations to broadcast the case live.

In the end, the judges’ referring several issues to Parliament is a clear indication that it understood the separation of powers that exist in the democratic dispensation. One issue that was referred to Parliament is that the Public Appointments Committee (PAC) look into how the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) conducted itself in the polls.

In essence, I feel the ConCourt wants the committee to come up with a comprehensive report on who were the fraudsters at MEC who initiated this fraud of an election and to whose benefit. Like they always say, bringing culprits to book gives a lesson to would-be offenders to come to their senses. Efforts to declare elections a sham will yield nothing unless those responsible are held accountable.

The case has also shown us that the fight against corruption is possible. The judges have shown us there is still room for us to stamp out corruption when they refused to be bought.

For so long the Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda has been saying the judicial system is laden with corruption and these instances brought that to the surface.

The other lesson we can also draw from the past few months is how a strong civil society can provide a strong voice to the masses. The Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has played a role that encouraged citizen participation to fight for their rights.

The Malawi Defence Force (MDF), on its part, played a very critical role in protecting citizens of this country in the trying times. They came in where the police failed. For that matter, police were involved in rape of 17 women in Lilongwe, yet to date, no officer has been cautioned.

It is also every normal person’s belief that Ansah should have by now resigned from her position as MEC chair. It is with unabated that we await some senior MEC staff resigning for abusing their offices and bringing us unnecessary tension.

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