Hon. Folks, former South African president Nelson Mandela once famously said: “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”
For the anti-apartheid and political liberator, who is fondly known as Madiba in his home country, those words were not just rhetoric. They were a way of life. It was his faultless willingness to work with his perceived enemies that helped him oversee one of the most peaceful regime changes in Africa.
When he came to power, Mandela refused to give in to the rage emanating from decades of segregation, economic marginalisation and violent political suppression, and exact revenge on regime that had him incarcerated for the better part of three decades.
Instead, he chose the higher path and elected to work with the remnants of the apartheid regime to build a better and more inclusive South Africa.
If only Malawi had leaders of Madiba’s calibre. If only we had statesmen willing to sacrifice political ambitions and grudges for the good of the nation. If the period after the May 21 Tripartite Elections are anything to go by, Malawi has no such leader.
Politicians from the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and opposition Malawi Congress and UTM, have been insulting and threatening each other ever since the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) declared APM as the winner of the controversial poll.
None of the parties have made any real attempt to reach across the divide and work with the other. A half-hearted attempt by DPP regional vice-president for the South Kondwani Nankhumwa was met with a swift and unyielding rebuttal from UTM and MCP.
And the rhetoric and vitriol from both sides of the political divide shows that these warring factions are still nowhere near forming a political resolution. There are simply not willing to work together.
Even the human rights activists, if we can still call them that, have forgotten their mandate to protect the interests of the people and have become embroidered in this political quagmire.
First, it was the Human Right Defenders Coalition (HRDC)’s decision to partner with opposition parties, MCP and UTM, in their demonstrations intended to force MEC chairperson Jane Ansah’s to resign.
Through that misguided step, what was once a legitimate call for electoral accountability has become a farcical power struggle between the DPP, who strongly believe they won the election, and the opposition, who are adamant that the election was fraudulent and should be nullified.
Then there was the ill-advised attempt by Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare Mary Navicha and Seodi White, chief director in the Public Sector Reforms Unit in the Office of the President and Cabinet, to discredit the demonstrations as a case of misogyny and violence against women.
Throughout this whole debacle, the politicians and so-called human rights activists have conveniently forgotten that the case is still in court. As it stands now, the High Court has not ruled that the election was fraudulent. Neither have they absolved MEC of any wrong doing.
The Malawi Law Society (MLS) on Wednesday rightly urged the leaders of the political institutions and rights organisations involved in this political stand-off to “reflect” on their conduct and its negative impact on political and economic stability in the country
HRDC, UTM and MCP leadership should really consider the consequences of the demonstrations on the business in the country. After all, their call for Ansah’s resignation is predicated on the assumption that the election was fraudulent and benefitted APM, a position which the court is yet to establish.
Ansah should reflect on whether it is in the best interests of the country to cling on to her position as MEC chair when she has been implicated in overseeing a fraudulent election. Especially, when her resignation could potentially end the stand-off.
And the DPP, most of all should reflect on the necessity, who are correctly defending their right to demand accountability from the government institutions. APM and his lieutenants should realise that in the eyes of 60 plus Malawians, they are an “illegitimate” government until the court says so.
Recent actions have shown that leaders from both sides of the aisle have selective amnesia, choosing to ignore viewpoints that go against their preferred version of the ‘truth’.
The DPP, MCP, HRDC and Ansah should know that they cannot be the judge jury and executioner all at once. They should realise that perceptions are merely opinions until the court makes a ruling on the elections case.
Let the courts decide. In the meantime, make peace, call a truce and let’s go back to governing and promoting peace and stability in the country.