August 8 2019
It is astounding to think that with all the fire and rout against her Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chair Jane Ansah refuses to budge. It is her choice to stay put and no one but Ansah can explain what is at stake for her to avoid standing down.
There must be so much more at stake compelling her to stay put. When police, trying to disperse demonstrators in Lilongwe, tear gassed newly born babies on kangaroo care and their mothers at Bwaila Hospital, my heart missed a bit. For all Ansah cares, that can never be a reason to call it quits, for the stakes must be higher than risking the lives of the little ones.
Every time the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) organises demonstrations, the destruction is evident. Public and private buildings have been torched; cars have been smashed; shops looted and so much more destruction. The image of a burning police armoured car, popularly known as chimbaula, gives you a clearer idea of the anger the demonstrators are expressing.
Yet, Ansah can’t move an inch. History is being written in quite a haste. Malawi is volatile. Malawians are exploding by the day. I wonder why she wants the pages dedicated to her be written in red and black ink when the rest of the book is black and white.
It is her right to make a choice. It is only proper for her to hold on to what truth and virtue she believes in. But, for the sake of peace, I believe Ansah loses nothing for letting go. The nation will gain more. The destruction is too much.
As a matter of fact, her bidding farewell does not mean acceptance of guilt. If the wheels of justice which are rolling will indicate that the elections were conducted freely, fairly and justly, she will have the last laugh.
I have heard it more than once. It is argued that once Ansah resigns, then the HRDC will shift goal posts and call for President Peter Mutharika’s head. HRDC has disputed that. I find the argument faulty, as there are constitutional as well as legal and parliamentary instruments and procedures for the impeachment of the President.
Unseating the President cannot be done on the streets. Even if it were, why would Ansah choose to protect Mutharika’s tenure by refusing to throw in the towel?
While we are at it, the extent to which fake news is spreading is worrying. A day or two before the demonstrations, ‘adverts’ were doing rounds on social media saying several companies and organisations were not opening due to the demonstrations. There were ‘adverts’ from Standard Bank, Airtel and Kenya Airways.
Being a journalist, there is no way news can be fake for it is objective and verified, passing through various tests. But, since the terminology popularised by American President Donald Trump is with us, I will be forced to use it.
The spread of fake news is keeping us back. We have seen some, taking pictures of the daily papers and Photoshop the headlines to suit their mediocre and sinister motives. The perpetrators are scot free.
In 2016, the Electronic Transactions Act was enacted. It has subtle areas that cover cybercrimes, including the spread of fake news. For one, the Act establishes the office of a cyber investigator. The investigator can trace the origins of the works of trolls—cyberbullies. Why is the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) not helping track creators of the fake news?