How far will Jane Ansah go?


With George Kasakula:

Elsewhere in the world, where a public official has been caught up in some form of mess as determined by some quarters with a valid voice, it does not take days for such an official to give up their position.

If the public has lost trust in you and feels you should not continue holding your public office, it is a moral undertaking to give in and allow for some scrutiny which, in the long run, may even exonerate you.


But, in Malawi, that would probably be wishful thinking. Take this for instance: the demonstrations that have been going on in this country since Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) announced that Democratic Progressive Party’s Peter Mutharika had won the May 21 presidential poll, largely revolve around Mec Chairperson Jane Ansah.

She is a lady of high standing in society; she is a Justice of the Supreme Court of Appeal, a position that does not fall on a silver platter.

Her judgement, regarding the demonstrations and their impact, could be beyond the scope of some of us but it is clear that some moment of deeper reflection could end the present crisis.


Resigning from one’s position does not need to be legal. It can be moral and that is where it carries more weight.

We have heard and seen politicians and other officers in other countries resigning after being dragged into some scandalous acts even when they maintain that they are innocent.

Their feelings are that their positions are untenable and that they no longer inspire public confidence such that it is as good as not being there at all.

That seems not to be the case with Ansah. There are those who believe she mismanaged the May 21 elections and that, therefore, she should not continue holding her position at Mec.

Of course, other commissioners at Mec are also being asked to resign but everyone’s eyes are on the electoral body’s top-most official who, if anything, is supposed to lead by example.

The resignation of Ansah would, most likely, result in the resignation of other commissioners because they handled the election together.

Calls from institutions such as Malawi Law Society requesting Ansah to engage in some deep reflection on whether remaining in her position, despite the public discontent, makes moral sense, should have jolted the Mec chief into some moral action.

After all, it is even difficult to imagine how Ansah will continue discharging her duties beyond the current crisis when there are quarters that do not want her on that Mec job.

Her office, being public, has to have a bearer who continuously earns public trust and loss of that trust means she will always have problems steering the electoral body forward.

At a meeting which former president Bakili Muluzi had with members of Human Rights Defenders Coalition at his residence in Blantyre, he indicated that he was willing to engage President Peter Mutharika, as the appointing authority, and Ansah so that there can be an end to the current crisis.

Perhaps, Muluzi might come out with something tangible from such engagements. The two parties he indicated he would love to meet might simply be standing on mutual ground regarding whether Ansah should resign.

Mutharika appointed the Mec chief and has options of bringing her into any process of resolving the current political crisis.

First, Mutharika can simply ask Ansah to step aside so that demonstrations are curtailed; or, he can simply fire her if he believes such an act can bring peace and order back in the country.

But the President himself seems unwilling to execute any of the two options. And he does not even seem willing to have the demonstrations ended.

Apart from backing a call made by one of his officials, Kondwani Nankhumwa, that the parties at variance should come to a roundtable discussion on the political situation, Mutharika has not shown any serious commitment to end the crisis.

That is where it would be preposterous to think that he will, this time, do something for Ansah to vacate her position in the interest of peace and calm.

There are other election-related court cases, apart from the larger consolidated case that has Malawi Congress Party leader Lazarus Chakwera and his UTM counterpart Saulos Chilima as the petitioners.

Suppose these cases are determined in favour of the petitioners and reruns are ordered, would Ansah still be confidently in a position to lead the team that should manage the polls?

If she remains in her position, perhaps, until the expiry of her tenure, will she continue to command the respect that she used to before the current crisis ensued?

Well, that is a personal choice and it may not matter to her. But the truth is that the current situation can fade if she resigns. It would be an important decision bordering on morality and an acceptable social act.

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