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A dance with the devil

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With George Kasakula:

Again, in the last 10 days, the country experienced more reverberations after the May 21 elections as Malawians wait for the case which five High Court judges, sitting as a Constitutional Court in Lilongwe, are presiding over.

Information coming from the court— after a flurry of fresh applications, counter-applications and directions— is that the five judges will start hearing evidence that lawyers of the petitioners, namely Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM, have on July 29, which is a month from now.

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But, as the chivomerezi of the post-elections period and protests in the county continue to rage, with Lilongwe as the epicentre, the past 10 days were no different as the country witnessed a massive sea of faces on streets in Thursday’s demonstrations in Lilongwe, Blantyre, Zomba and Mzuzu.

The protests saw record crowds, like those seen on July 20 2011 when civil society organisations organised demonstrations against the then president, the late Bingu wa Mutharika.

Among notable leaders that joined the march were MCP president Lazarus Chakwera, UTM president Saulos Chilima, former chief justice Richard Banda, former vice president Khumbo Kachali and others.

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Then, last Friday, MCP MPs in Parliament walked out of the House as President Peter Mutharika delivered the State of the Nation Address (Sona), arguing they do not recognise him as President as they are waiting for the court case. As such, they did not want to listen to him.

During the address, the President warned, among other things, those perpetuating violence and claimed that two leaders wanted to bomb Kamuzu Stadium as he was being sworn in and that the same leaders were courting al Shabaab terrorist group as well as militias in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) war zone to destabilise Malawi.

Talking of court, on the same Friday in the afternoon, the High Court, sitting as a Constitutional Court, dismissed an application by Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) and the President’s lawyer to dismiss the case in which MCP and UTM are disputing results of the May 21 elections, saying the case had to go on on June 26 as the judges wanted to hear the evidence available.

This prompted Chakwera to hold a press conference on Saturday, when he demanded evidence from the President. If Mutharika would fail to do so, then, in the MCP leader’s words, the claims should as well be described as one of his “Tipp-ex lies”.

There are certainly positives in all this. One of them is that Malawians who feel aggrieved with the way the Jane Ansah-led Mec managed the elections were able to demonstrate in large numbers, rarely seen in demos these days, just to express themselves and get heard. Such things are expected in 21st Century Malawi.

Ansah and her band of commissioners, together with the Mec secretariat, were not running the May 21 elections on behalf of their families but were doing so on behalf of all Malawians and, so, Malawians that feel bad about how the whole thing went have a right to go on the streets and get heard.

Until now, Ansah has not resigned and organisers of the demonstrations, Human Rights Defenders Coalition, (HRDC), announced this weekend that the June 20 demonstrations will be followed up by vigils on July 4 and 5.

The Supreme Court justice may feel that she did not do anything wrong but the truth is that her position on the issue is untenable.

I cannot see how she and her band of commissioners can organise another round of elections when one critical player, the whole opposition bloc, has lost trust in them and, actually, see them as partial referees.

All in all, Malawians got heard and told their leaders what they feel about the present situation.

Sadly, the June 20 demonstrations were infiltrated by criminals and vagabonds who went about blocking roads, burning houses of innocent people and stealing, damaging an otherwise noble duty and right of every citizen to demonstrate when aggrieved by leaders.

At the court in Lilongwe, some people were out to mess up things and equally eager to mess up things were some police officers whose hands only itch for the trigger of the tear gas canister, thereby disturbing the peace of Malawians who wanted to be near the proceedings as judges were delivering a ruling into the preliminary matters of the elections case.

All these are negatives that impacted otherwise good intentions by those that want to get heard. Those behind the unbecoming behaviour endangered the peace we all need to build a better nation for ourselves and our children.

Also endangering peace in this already tense atmosphere are politicians who say things that seem to come from a brain that has not been engaged before allowing the mouth to open.

Mutharika’s claims of threats to judges, al Shabaab and DRC militias is talk that just draws attention to the country unless he has evidence that the so-called two leaders are indeed engaged in treasonous behaviour.

If, indeed, there are two leaders who are conspiring and talking to dangerous groups, then there is just one course of action available and it is to arrest them because we cannot allow ambition to exceed the security and peace on this country.

But my gut feeling is that somebody lied to the President and, unfortunately, he believed in the lie and it found itself in the Sona.

Equally bad is the politicians’ utterance in podia and press conferences as there is need to tone down a little bit so that followers who are eager to do more to please their masters do not find excuses to commit crimes in the name of pushing through their masters’ agenda.

The country is toxic and peace plus nation-building are in danger.

As the aggrieved are seeking justice to achieve genuine peace, there is need for our leaders to be

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