On Saturday July 6 2019, a group of women calling itself Forum for Concerned Women (FCW) led by chief director at the Public Sector Reforms Unit and Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare held a press conference.
The aim of the presser was basically to show solidarity for embattled Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Dr. Jane Ansah in the wake of nationwide demonstrations that have for the past month been calling for her resignation.
Amid much tears from organisers Seodi White and the Gender Minister Mary Navicha, the two bemoaned what they called gender injustice, victimisation of women, and misogyny in Malawi.
The FCW called for and held a solidarity demonstration on Wednesday July 10 2019 in protest against the victimisation of the MEC chairperson.
In Blantyre, having ferried thousands of women from Thyolo, Mulanje and Phalombe, FCW gave the marchers “I am Jane Ansah” T-shirts, K3 000, and solidarity placards. The marchers marched and presented a letter of protest to the Minister of Gender.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
However, while the “Jane Ansah issue not a gender issue” has been undertaken by another column already, it is the assertion “I am Jane Ansah” and other aspects of the solidarity demonstration that will be discussed in this discourse.
Because the matter of the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections is before the Constitutional Court, the merits or demerits of some aspects of the issue, will not be raised.
At the outset, it must be stated that you, FCW members and demonstrators, are neither collectively nor singularly “Dr. Jane Ansah” Judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal and MEC chairperson.
You are not Justice Dr. Jane Ansah, one of the first Malawian women to qualify for a law degree from the University of Malawi.
There are, of course, many other aspects of the nature and character of Justice Dr. Jane Ansah, but suffice it to say, she does not need this haphazardly prepared form of solidarity support, buttressed by a horde of ill-informed people from the countryside.
Justice Dr. Jane Ansah is doing fine without this Blantyre-only-based demonstration. On the aspect of ferrying women from the rural districts of Thyolo, Mulanje, and Phalombe, it very sadly appears that the FCW went to great lengths, sourcing and handing out over K6 million of taxpayer money, to protect one woman, while leaving out unprotected thousands of the ferried women.
There are numerous video clips of the marchers walking the streets of Blantyre on Wednesday evening, going home; gone were the trucks that ferried them to the demonstration.
It is reported that the women that attended the press conference in Lilongwe received K10 000 while those ferried from the districts got K3 000.
Perhaps there is nothing wrong with this. However, there are several concerns and questions that must be raised, posed, and answers given.
As noble as the gesture may have been in the minds of the architects of the Justice Dr. Jane Ansah solidarity demonstration, it would have been nobler to truly explain the purpose of the demonstration to all the participants.
Thus, it would have been great to listen to the rural masses articulate their solidarity for the MEC chair.
Sadly, there are reports of the women marchers expressing the reasons they were marching; their statements gave clear evidence that they were not properly appraised; some women did not know the person they were expressing solidarity for.
In other words, the “I am Jane Ansah” demonstrations demeaned the very high office of Justice Dr. Jane Ansah, the victimised woman the FCW purports the demonstration were held to protect from misogynistic and patriarchy system of male dominance.
On the alleged use of the enormous amount of money from government offices and statutory organisations (K6 million), there arises the need for parliamentary oversight on the use of taxpayer funds for political events.
In conclusion, marchers are not Justice Dr. Jane Ansah. Whatever she may have done in her line of work, she is capable of faring through; she does not need weeping or ill-informed solidarity sisters rushing to her defence.
Long live genuine democracy!