By Rebecca Chimjeka and Serah Chilora:
Push comes to shove! Some Malawians across the country have decided to push for the resignation of Malawi Electoral Chairperson (Mec) Jane Ansah by signing an online petition through social platforms, which started a week ago.
The petition, championed by Change Agenda on change.org, seeks for Ansah’s resignation following the Supreme Court of Appeal’s judgement delivered last week Friday which upheld the Constitutional Court’s ruling that nullified the May 21, 2019 presidential elections, among others.
The Supreme Court ruling also hit at Ansah and her team of commissioners at Mec, who had already been found wanting in their manner of handling elections by the lower court as well as Parliament.
The petition, which is on https:// www.change.org/p/dr-jane-ansah-malawi-electoral-commission-justice-dr-jane-ansah-joa-to-resign-from-mec, is looking for 5000 signatures.
And as we went to press, about 2807 petitioners had already signed the petition.
“Justice Ansah promised to resign if the Supreme Court of Appeal upholds the Constitutional Court judgement that it messed up 2019 presidential elections. She can no longer hold the trust of the people and can never be in charge of the next election. She must pave way for a new commission,” reads the write-up accompanying the petition.
A source, who opted for anonymity and is in the know on how petitions on change.org work, said upon completion of the estimated number of signatures, the petition is then printed and delivered to the relevant authorities.
Mec’s Director of Media and Public Relations Sangwani Mwafulirwa said the commission is not aware of the development.
“No. we are not aware. We can know when something is delivered to us. We have got a registered office,” he said.
Ansah, a Supreme Court of Appeal judge who led the May 2019 General Elections, is on record to have said she would resign if the Supreme Court of Appeal finds her in the wrong for mishandling that election.
Since last year’s elections, Malawians across the country, through Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) operating under the banner Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), took to the streets demanding that Ansah should resign; accusing her of failing to run a free and fair election.
In an interview, renowned lawyer Bright Theu, who is among Malawians that have signed the petition, says the idea is to force Ansah to resign.
“Although the idea has been originated by citizens of goodwill, the online petition will be presented to the President as the responsible authority to remove her,” Theu said.
Another petitioner, Ovixlexla Bunya, has told Malawi News that she has signed the document in solidarity with all the citizens that are pushing for the change.
“A public office shouldn’t be taken as a personal entity, Ansah was found incompetent, her behaviour is bleeding mediocrity and it is creating demigods,” Bunya said.
Asked whether the online petition by citizens would yield anything much, Chancellor College based political analyst Ernest Thindwa and governance expert Henry Chingaipe both said nothing can force Ansah to resign.
“The sheer magnitude and intensity of her arrogance and a feeling of being above the law reveals how determined she is not to serve the country but to do APM a favour for reasons best known to her,” Thindwa said.
“The only thing that can work on Jane Ansah is a court order or presidential order, period,” Chingaipe concurred with Thindwa.
However, despite visible displeasure from various stakeholders, Ansah and the commission have already started implementing electoral processes ahead of the fresh presidential election ordered by the courts.
Meanwhile, the commission is yet to identify a printer for the ballot papers.
Speaking during a National Consultative Elections Forum (Necof) meeting in Mangochi, Ansah told stakeholders that while the commission is identifying a printer, they are being mindful of the coronavirus.
“The Commission is currently identifying a printer for the ballot papers. At the same time, we are closely monitoring developments across the globe in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. We will be advising electoral stakeholders on updates regarding this exercise. Stakeholders will also be invited to monitor the process at their own cost,” she said.
The Constitutional Court nullified the 2019 presidential election on the basis that it was marred by widespread systematic irregularities further saying that the current cohort of Mec Commissioners incompetent.
Last week, the Supreme Court also upheld the decision.