The Judgment is here
The wait is over and the day is here.
The High Court and Supreme Court registrar announced on Tuesday that the five High Court judges that heard the constitutional reference matter in which Malawi Congress Party president Lazarus Chakwera and his UTM counterpart Saulos Chilima are challenging the constitutionality of President Peter Mutharika’s win in the May 21 presidential election as declared by the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) will make their judgment on Monday, February 3 in the morning.
The two petitioners cited massive irregularities as the reason why they went to court in the first place and they wanted the court to nullify the presidential result of the vote and order a rerun.
Mutharika and Mec, through their respective lawyers, vigorously defended the result and they want the petition dismissed.
But now, despite all the arguments made, all the partisan politicking done in all manner of places and forums including the social media, it is down to the four Malawian men and one Malawian woman to deliver their findings.
They will deliver the judgement on Monday to a nation pregnant with divided expectations depending on whose side they are supporting in the matter.
Their decision is like a piece of matches that will light everyone’s heart with either joy or dilapidation depending on which side they are rooting for.
The future and survival of our country and the system we chose in 1993 on how to govern it is dependent on this case, especially on how Malawians of all shades and manner will react to it.
This is why everyone is understandably worried with the aftermath and the political leaders—ranging from Mutharika to Chakwera and Chilima—were called upon to educate their followers to accept the ruling whichever way it goes.
That is why government, through the Ministry of Information, took time to assure the public that there is going to be peace and calm, law and order before, during and after the judgment.
Government even acknowledged that it is aware that this ruling will attract different reactions and state security organs are well prepared to keep the peace that the country has safeguarded and enjoyed for many years.
I would not take this statement at face value.
This should be interpreted to mean government is aware of the tension the judgement will bring and as such it is ready to use the force of the state to enforce peace among Malawians including heavy handedness if need be.
It is a bad sign yet the reality is starkly clear that the country is at a precipice.
Everything has been made worse by the fact that a lot has happened since December when the judges retired to deliberate their judgement after listening to evidence for over 50 days.
The Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) arrest of businessman Thom Mpinganjira, for example, in connection with the bribery attempts to influence the five judges in their ruling made things worse in raising the political temperature about the outcome of the case.
The shenanigans surrounding his release from Blantyre Police Station after lawyer Lusungu Gondwe got an order quashing the businessman’s warrant of arrest and the resultant scathing remarks by High Court Judge Dorothy Nyakaunda Kamanga on how wrong and dubious the whole thing was all added fuel to a raging fire.
The country’s hope lies in the words that president of the five judges, Healey Potani, said during the last day of hearing the matter on December 21 that in coming up with their ruling, the judges will not pay attention to the public opinion that has been rampant with everyone having an opinion in these days of social media.
At the end of the day, this is a landmark case and whichever way it goes on Monday it will have far reaching consequences on how future elections are conducted.
In fact, it already has an impact on elections even before the pronouncement is made on Monday morning.
The use of correctional fluid has featured in the case and one thing the judges will settle on Monday is whether its use in the May 21 presidential election made a difference to the ultimate result.
Obviously, fearful of another Tipp-Ex election, Mec commissioners and even officials were quick to advise election officials during the by-election in Lilongwe that the use of the correctional fluid is illegal.
Certainly, after Monday, we will not see the last of the case because the Supreme Court will have a say after an appeal that seems obvious by whoever loses.
At the end of the day, Malawians must know that no country living in a constant state of political instability prospers.
We need normalcy to create wealth that will take this country forward.
But that can only happen if there is fairness and justice for all. This is the true requisite for real peace.
Bring it on this Monday. The judgement day is here.