This last week was simply historic.
First, was the submission of nomination papers for the July 2, 2020, Presidential elections.
These were as significant as engagement ceremonies because they confirm who goes to bed with who in electoral pacts.
While in the past the element of surprise was intraparty, this time around it was high stakes, happening at political party level.
Indeed, after ‘seniority bickering`, MCP and UTM now lead the more broad-based “Tonse Alliance”. DPP and UDF, thanks to 50%+1, have also wedded. If you have been following this column, you’ll agree that this is what we have been advocating for.
The taste of the pudding, they say, is in the eating. As such, whether these pacts will last is a story for another day.
The nominations process was full of drama. Lazarus Chakwera, representing the Tonse Alliance, snubbed the MEC Chair and Commissioners in his nomination speech and after that, with Saulos Chilima beside him, they ran a victory lap around the suburbs of Blantyre with a throng in tow.
Every dog, they say, has his day.
Next came Peter Mutharika. Mutharika, oblivious to all developments in the courts and parliament insisted that the May 21, 2019, election “was free, fair and credible” and that he “won that election and will win this election”.
Done, Mutharika and Atupele Muluzi stormed Blantyre. However, they faced some embarrassment in Ndirande Township where Police had to fire teargas to disperse people trying to block the president from passing through certain sections of a road in this volatile township also known as Malawi’s political barometer.
This week’s icing on the cake if I can put it that way, was the much-awaited Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal (MSCA) judgement following Mutharika and MEC’s appealing the phenomenal February 3 Constitutional Court judgement.
With hindsight, the ill-advised duo should not have appealed.
We all know that only a fool throws stones when they live in a glasshouse. In this regard, after both MEC and DPP had spent the better parts of February and March roundly insulting the Courts with unsubstantiated allegations of bribery, their appeal was first-degree idiocy.
To the MSCA’s credit, although mention was made in passing of the insults, the judgement was a sober one, based and well-grounded on our laws and expertly brewed with local and international cases.
The Justices of Appeal demonstrated why, despite one of them embarrassing the entire bench, they are what they are.
Their dissection and synthesis of the Constitutional Court’s judgement and other precedents vis-à-vis the 50%+1 which are partly why Malawi has suffered from minority rule, was enlightening.
By the time the Judge reading pronounced that the MSCA was upholding the lower Court’s judgement on the issue, everyone was wondering why and how in the first place, some idiot(s) had taken us on the path to first-past-the-post when our constitution and laws clearly point to 50%+1.
Where the MSCA disagreed with the Constitutional Court was the duration awarded to MEC to conduct another election, i.e. 150 days. 60 days, as per the MSCA, was the correct prescription.
Further, MEC’s restarting the process of Voters Registration was halted because ONLY those who suffered injustice due to MEC’s incompetence are the ones whose rights were trampled upon.
What’s more, MEC has now been succinctly told that its incompetence is no longer a laughing matter and that going forward, it should play the role of a neutral arbiter as opposed to the current status where the MEC Chairperson behaves more or less like a party functionary and MEC as a whole as if it were some party’s para-electoral wing.
“Hey folks, today is Chakwera Day! ooh, today is APM Day!” Be serious Alfandika, which arbiter does that?
Sorry; I digressed.
The MSCA added that should the incompetence seen at MEC resurface, commissioners will personally foot legal and other costs that can be easily avoided by acting in good faith and running elections competently.
In short, the MSCA noted that:
• MEC’s conduct May 2019 elections demonstrated serious incompetence which astounded the Court. How can MEC, a neutral umpires, appeal and take sides with one of the candidates?
• Mutharika was not duly elected as President of the Republic.
The MSCA has consequently largely upheld the decisions the Constitutional Court, and the whole appeal was dismissed in its entirety with costs.
Interesting was Justice Twea’s opinion of one. Basing his arguments on our Constitution and Laws, this learned Justice of Appeal holds that Mutharika’s injury-time presidency is outright illegal. The dude should be at Ndata Estate or elsewhere.
If Justice Twea had his way and the panel had by his arguments been swayed, once it was determined that what MEC conducted in May 2019 was not an election, but something else, the presidency and vice presidency should not have reverted to Mutharika and Chilima.
We should have installed an acting president, pending genuine elections.
Now, Blues Orators, whosoever doubted the constitutionality and therefore the legality of the High Court sitting as a Constitutional Court, as propagated by one Steven Maseya of Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), needs to go for a check-up.
As for Mutharika’s continued assertion that the May 2019 elections complied with the law, it all goes to show how deluded he is about everything else.
This kind of delusion, let us call a spade by its name, is a grenade waiting to explode.
At the end of the day, the South African based law scholar Professor Danwood Chirwa has wrapped it well.
Indeed, the judgement is talking to politicians, electoral officials, lawyers and voters alike.
To politicians it says “respect the electoral process and all voters”; to electoral officials: “respect the law and the constitution, act professionally and you won’t get away with sloppiness or incompetence”; to lawyers including the Attorney General: “the courts won’t tolerate unprofessional and unethical behaviour”; and to us voters: “every vote counts and please, take elections seriously”.
Long live Malawi!