Let the healing begin

Malawians must be proud of the successful holding of the sixth general election after the reintroduction of multiparty democracy in 1993.

I am especially proud and I salute my Person of the Year Justice Jane Ansah for pulling off the most successful election so far.

Her stakeholder management skills and her detailed grasp of the Malawi Electoral Commission’s (MEC) operational architecture are the stuff of legend. She has run a close-knit and disciplined shop.

The way she mastered the communication architecture of the commission and her structured communications architecture deserves loud applause. She has been tough, but fair.

Ansah understood that in an era of fake news, any information gap by the commission could result in disastrous consequences, including loss of lives and property. And so she proactively provided information in near real time.

She has managed to retain, even improve, the credibility and integrity of MEC, which is likely to make it one of the most trusted public institutions in Malawi. So, yes, Ansah is easily my Person of the Year.

There is no doubt that this has been the most competitive election so far. For the first time, we had two serving members of the Cabinet competing against their boss who tapped them into Cabinet: President Peter Mutharika.

Vice-President Saulos Chilima rebelled from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to form his UTM Party, but remained second in command.

Atupele Muluzi of United Democratic Front (UDF), whose party was a minion in the working relationship with DPP and remained as Health Minister until the Cabinet was dissolved in line with constitutional order also challenged his boss.

Even without MEC announcing official figures, it was clear by Thursday that both Chilima and Muluzi failed miserably to unseat their leader, who they thought was doing a terrible job of running the country.

Chilima emerged as a distant third after Malawi Congress Party (MCP) candidate Lazarus Chakwera, who was in a tight race with Mutharika.

The performance of Muluzi and his UDF was an embarrassing whiplash for a naughty boy who thought he was ready for prime time and play with the big boys who just smacked him down.

By the time you read this, Malawi would have known whether Mutharika has been given a second chance or voters will have handed the fiery charismatic preacher a chance to run the country as he envisions.

Either way, whoever is President has a lot of work to do to reunite a country deeply polarized by bitter partisanship.

In our efforts, sometimes overzealously, to promote our candidate and party of choice, we hurt each other so badly that the polls have left deep wounds, but which must be healed if we are to move forward as a country.

Malawi has a lot of problems that need returning to quickly. We have the menace that is corruption that must be destroyed before it destroys this beautiful country. We have an economy that is impoverishing the masses instead of improving their lives.

We have health and education systems that are keeping the rich more comfortable while leaving the poor in deep pangs of ill-health and poverty. We have water and energy crises that are literally sucking the life out of Malawi.

Yet, not all is doom and gloom. There are opportunities that have been created over the past five years that we must capitalize on. The stable macroeconomic environment makes it easier for any government to build on and grow the economy to more than the seven percent needed to reduce human suffering.

There has been a decent attempt to expand and improve the infrastructure of this country in various sectors, including transport, sports, health and education that can be the foundation for a more broad-based growth and development.

As a country, we have initiated reforms aimed at improving the way the public sector delivers services that bring economic efficiency necessary to attract investors and help citizens to be more productive and contribute to the economy.

But for all these to happen, we need whoever emerges as President to quickly return things to normalcy and mobilize the country towards executing the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy because in the end this country, these citizens, must do what is good for the country and thus for everyone. n

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