Tower of shame

There is a video of Jane Ansah that went viral on Monday, just as the judges of the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) were entering the final stages of their 500-page judgement on the disputed presidential election.

The reason it was making a resurgence on social media was clear. Jane Ansah was facing the ultimate rebuke in the courthouse and this was revenge, on part of her detractors, served cold. It was a footage from the immediate aftermath of the post-May 21 elections, at a press briefing where the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson dared her critics—bullishly defended her handling of the elections.

But Ansah said something else, too, that day. Not only did she say she was sure she had handled the elections by the book, she was equally convinced her fellow justices will eventually exonerate her role. But if they dare found her in the wrong, Ansah vowed, she will resign from office.

No wonder everyone had a field day Monday evening, reminding Ansah of her words. Came Tuesday morning, Ansah had walked back on that pledge completely, not only was she not ever going to resign, but she could not even stomach the idea of answering media inquiries on the matter. Media house after media house, she told them off, saying she was not brooking any questions.

Ansah has seen the country burn; property damaged, shops and offices ransacked, lives and businesses shuttered, the economy dive into tailspin, a life brutally lost, and ultimately, the country’s reputation ruined. But she has refused to bow down to demands of millions and that position has been justified by the fact that she asked the nation to bear with her until the judges had their say.

And the judges have spoken in the clearest and unequivocal way possible. Ansah and company messed up the elections to the extent that no reasonable person could consider them neither credible nor true reflection of the people. Yes, the ruling makes some incredible, read damning, indictment of the commission Ansah reads. It charges MEC of completely abdicating its constitutional duties, negligence and possibly worse.

“We acknowledge that considering the enormity of the electoral process it is almost impossible to have an election that is completely free from any irregularities or anomalies,” the judges stated. “However, in the present matter, it has been our finding that the anomalies and irregularities have been widespread, systematic and grave such that the integrity of the result has been seriously compromised,” they added.

We all suspected these things, but now the ruling has confirmed our worst fears. Some of the evidence that was presented before the five judges suggests, as the ruling will clearly tell you, that some of the behaviour by MEC went beyond criminal negligence, but was a blatant attempt to rig the elections. As if that’s not enough, MEC officials lied, concealed evidence, attempted to alter evidence (such as the BDO audit report), all in a vain attempt to conceal the truth.

That, above all else, justifies why it was all reasonable in the first place, to call Ansah and her commission to leave MEC, even before the court process started.

Why Ansah thought she was indispensable enough to cling to office which was, ostensibly, under investigation, was shocking for all of us.

That she did it at a huge cost to the country, was something that says more of Ansah than those who called for her to go. Now she has been told in no uncertain language that she failed us, failed her fellow judges and ultimately herself, she still find it sensible to spend one more day in public office and more of our taxes.

She has just blown millions of our hard-earned money defending a case in which, lest we forget, ended in abject shame after the judges brutally reminded her that in matters of managing elections, she was supposed to act like a court. But what kind of court would not only refuse to recuse itself when accused of bias but continue to act in a manner that undermines future elections and trust in our government by abusing State resources simply to please its ego. Ansah has exhausted her welcome as MEC chairperson. She has no right to even appeal the court case. She must go.

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