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A mess of independence

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With George Kasakula:

Today is July 6 and it has become standard practice for me to, every such day, answer this fundamental question: What have we made of independence since the British packed their bags 55 years ago?

The patriot in me says I should be grateful for the gift of independence, which others in other parts of this same treacherous world are still yearning for today. I am talking of those in Hong Kong, Palestine, Tibet, the list is endless.

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I could have it no other way and that is why, we, Malawians of today, must be eternally grateful to those who, first all, lost their lives and then those that led the way such as founding president the late Dr Hastings Kamuzu during the struggle for independence.

After gaining independence, the founding fathers laid the foundation, and standards we needed, to, as a nation, achieve greatness.

Unfortunately, that is where we end. We have achieved nothing.

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Successive governments, including the present Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government, have tried to put a spin and want to cheat Malawians that we have made progress.

This is one fat, blue lie and the truth of matter is we are the fourth poorest nation in the world.

Those who argue otherwise can be my guests on the way to the village, where we will see families that cannot even afford three decent meals.

They cannot even afford a little money for the proverbial pinch of salt to season the natural mkhwani herbs that pass for relish.

They cannot send their children to a decent private school because they cannot afford it.

They die like tsetse flies at Kasungu National Park because they go to government hospitals and clinics as they cannot afford decent medical care in private health facilities.

Their only hope was agriculture, specifically tobacco-cultivation, but this, too, has been taken over by merchants and the rural folks are on the peripheral.

I can go on and on proving beyond reasonable doubt, to borrow some legalese, that independence to a majority has not meant anything as they are still under the choking yoke of poverty and all their leaders care about are their bellies.

We, as a nation, cannot even run basic house-keeping issues such as elections to the effect that, a month after the May 21 polls, the country is still experiencing reverberations since Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) Chairperson Dr Jane Ansah released results of the polls on May 27.

We have a court case in which Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM are calling for a nullification of presidential election results, claiming massive fraud. They want a rerun.

And then we have protests almost every day, with Lilongwe serving as the epicentre, spreading to places such as Blantyre, Zomba and Mzuzu and this week was no different.

We have seen MCP legislators in Parliament walk out on President Peter Mutharika as he delivered the State of the Nation Address, arguing they do not recognise him as President as they are waiting for the outcome of the court case.

In all fairness, Mec started well, in managing the elections, and all stakeholders had given the commission a full vote of confidence but it is the declaration of results that that was problematic, with madando [complaints] not wholly dealt with before results were declared. This issue is at the heart of the court case.

The critical thing that the court will deal with, for example, is not whether Tipp-ex was used or not. We all know Tipp-ex was used.

What is in contention at court, among other things, is whether the Tipp-ex used determined the results to propel Mutharika to victory to retain control of the government.

The petitioners, MCP and UTM, think Tipp-ex did determine the results while DPP and Mec are disputing that. They, actually, wanted the whole case dismissed in its infancy; that is, before we could hear the evidence that the petitioners will present.

It makes sense that the High Court, sitting as a Constitutional Court, threw out the application to dismiss the case as the process affords Malawians a chance to know what might have happened behind the scenes and whether that influenced the outcome of the polls.

Ansah and Mec commissioners were not running the elections on behalf of their families but on behalf of all Malawians and, so, all Malawians are entitled to know on how they [Ansah and Mec commissioners] performed to determine whether it was in line with all laws of this country.

Mec is, so far, coming out as a villain in these polls.

Protesters that have been going to the streets to demonstrate and hold vigils in recent weeks have a demand and their demand is that the chairperson of Mec, who happens to be Ansah, must resign.

The chairperson has rejected this outright, saying she, too, is waiting for the court case in Lilongwe, adding that those baying for her blood are practising mob justice and she cannot pander to their whims.

While this might make sense to Ansah, in the end she must ask herself whether she, as a referee, can still referee a match where one team is saying she has lost the credibility to be an impartial referee.

And is the cause of sticking to being chairperson of Mec worth the protests and vigils for Ansah?

The chairperson is also coming out as an arrogant person who does not recognise that a section of Malawians, not a mob, have a constitutionally guaranteed right to protest and make demands.

Sadly, she is, as she is trying to explain herself, just entangling herself and communicating nothing to the public.

The attempt to allay fears that she got a bribe when she talked of tonnes of money and K100,000 weighing one kilogramme and trucks needing K1 billion ended in confusion.

That was an unnecessary jam she deliberately put herself in.

In the end, Ansah should go as it is impossible now for some Malawians to accept her to, in case the courts declare so, run another round of elections— with confidence in her all gone.

With the majority of its population in dire poverty, to the extent that they fail to run simple basic house-keeping issues, would anybody in the right senses say we have benefitted from independence?

Yes, we are free from the British but are not free from poverty as other progressive peoples of the world.

We have made a mess of our independence.

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