Tuesday 23 June 2020 was no ordinary day for Malawians as they came out in large numbers to vote, choosing the country’s President after the courts had nullified the presidential poll that had taken place back in 2019 on May 21.
It had been a long and winding road from the time candidates that participated in the nullified poll raised concerns with the courts over its outcome. Since then, Malawi was literally on fire as day in day out, there were demonstrations on the streets, mainly against former Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) chairperson Justice Jane Ansah, whom together with her team of former commissioners, had been faulted by many. If not the aggrieved parties and their followers taking to the streets then you would be assured that the civil society, through a vigilant Human Rights Defenders coalition (HRDC) would do the needful and galvanise millions of Malawians to march in the major towns and cities. And at the height of the disagreements when the judgement had been delivered, it was the turn of the Peter Mutharika-led Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to air out its misgivings; only that theirs were not directed at the Mec but rather the courts that had nullified the May 21 2019 presidential election.
These acts cost the country dearly as business was almost paralysed since looting was order of the day and potential investors would not have risked putting their resources in a country that was brimming with fire. Even the government seat at Capital Hill was far from safe as at one point, demonstrators even invaded the premises; funny how a lot of things can happen within one year!
Not that many disliked the incumbent for the fact that he failed to garner a majority of the votes cast in the nullified vote – far from it! But they had been ticked off by the irregularities that characterised the vote results management process, which led to the courts arriving at the decision to nullify the poll and order that a fresh one be held within 150 days (beginning from the day of the judgement, February 3, 2020).
It can practically take us the whole day or indeed cover a whole chapter if I was to outline details of this journey that our country has undergone so for now, let us reflect on the developments of this past Tuesday, June 23.
It was pleasing to note that even the elderly had not been left out as those that were too old to find their way to a polling centre were assisted through ingenuity of communities. I was greatly impressed to see an old woman being wheeled to a polling centre in an ox-cart. In a rather bizarre instance, a certain drunkard had to be assisted by a police officer at each stage of the voting process; otherwise he would have collapsed in no time due to his intoxicated brain. Such was the commitment and resolve from the public to ensure that no one is left behind.
As with many other polls, there were reports of possible rigging plans (some of them authentic, some arising from the air) and just like Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) Chairperson Justice Chifundo Kachale explained the other day, these were duly neutralised by the able and diligent military personnel deployed across the country. It is about time we walked the path of the righteous in as far as elections are concerned; no cheating attempts, none whatsoever and so far, I must say this is a good start. Let it sink in our politicians that time for taking Malawians for damn fools is long gone; days when the ordinary citizen would salivate at the flash of a few wads of Kwacha note or indeed any other freebie are but only a distant memory. I am sure this election has helped drive the message home, and it would be foolhardy for any politician to attempt to employ same dirty tactics come the next election.
Now that the fresh presidential election is all but done, it is my hope that when we sit back and reflect on the journey travelled, we will all say it was worth the wait. Just like the former Mec chairperson had promised to pat herself on the back for a job well done during the previous election, which, unfortunately for her, was nullified by the courts; it is the turn of every Malawian to pat himself or herself on the back for having come this far, up to the point of participating in the fresh presidential election.
Hopeful, the wailing we are going to hear over the next few weeks will be sirens from the vehicles accompanying those victorious to their swearing in or inauguration ceremonies and not weeing and wailing from those on the losing end.
Stephen Dakalira is a seasoned Journalist who works as Times Group’s Online and Digital Executive Editor. He is also the Assistant Editor of The Sunday Times Newspaper, and author of Full Circle column which appears in Malawi News; all of these under the Times Group stable.
He has previously worked in key positions for some of Malawi’s key media institutions such as Malawi News Agency, Capital FM Radio and Star Radio (Now Timveni Radio).