The unprecedented pressure that Malawians mounted on the Public Appointments of Parliament (Pac) after it had rejected the appointment of Martha Chizuma as Director-General of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has visibly sent strong messages to those in public offices that the voice of the people should never be underestimated.
While the finer details of what happened in that room at Parliament building remains furtive, it is clear Pac members who rejected Chizuma first imagined their ill-advised judgement would pass without resistance.
Not in this day and age!
It so transpired that instead of confirming the ACB top boss appointee, the lawmakers conducted an actual interview and even went on to score her performance on sheets of paper.
Thus, those unwilling to see corruption come to an end took advantage of the flawed arrangement and the secret scoring to reject an officer who had proven so effective and competent at the Office of the Ombudsman.
And Malawians were not in for any games. They piled pressure on Pac and forced the committee to rescind its earlier decision.
That is what democracy should do. Those in public offices who fail to do the will of the majority must not be smiled at, lest they feel their sensibilities matter more than anything else in the course of their work.
In the case of Chizuma, it should be understood that every well-meaning Malawian is tired of the deep levels of corruption in this country and would support any serious effort to root out the vice.
Her appointment was collectively accepted as a giant leap in that direction, such that it was startling that someone would attempt to frustrate it.
Malawians began to think that there are people out there who are afraid of any effort to deal with the cancer of corruption, perhaps because they are corrupt and know a steadfast anti-graft top official at ACB would strike them hard.
Otherwise, what other reason could be advanced for rejecting Chizuma’s appointment?
Of course, committees of Parliament such as Pac have the liberty to work independently, according to the personal feelings of members. Not always!
Politics sometimes dominates Pac’s proceedings and often triumphs. This usually happens if it is in line with public opinion or if the majority is not that much interested in the appointment.
It is important for Members of Parliament (MPs) in crucial committees such as Pac to be careful when making important national decisions.
Information is progressively becoming public—with the Access to Information Act now in operation—and where Malawians feel betrayed by their representatives or anyone else in a position of public authority, they will demand that the right thing be done.
The voice of the people is the voice of God (vox populi, vox Dei) and this is especially distinct in democratic dispensations like ours. Our MPs should always keep this in mind.
Rejecting the voice of the people is a recipe for catastrophe. They are the ones who give leaders power and will, at every opportune time, take that power away.
Of course, Chizuma is finally heading to ACB but it still is imperative to talk about her rejection, the resultant pressure, the rescission and how much stake Malawians actually have in high-profile decisions made by public officers.
Pac will obviously be more careful in dealing with appointments whose public interest is very high and should try not to find itself entangled in a scenario similar to the Chizuma one.
In fact, all MPs should always take seriously the voice of people in a democracy because it speaks a lot about what direction Malawians want.
Any attempt to frustrate it may not always succeed because it is vox Dei.