But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:32
Malawi is truly a vibrant democratic country, with a buoyant population that knows and exercises its rights to pour out onto the streets to cry “wolf!” whenever it feels these are trampled upon. Sometime the demonstrators get the message to the ears of the authorities, thereby effecting the desired change. At other times, the results are further afield, unattainable, and sometimes downright laughable.
It’s a free country.
On Saturday July 6, 2019, a group of women, calling itself the “Forum for Concerned Women” (FCW), and led by Director of Civil Service Reforms and Gender Minister, held a press conference.
The aim of the presser was basically to show solidarity for embattled Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Chairperson, Justice Dr. Jane Ansah in the wake of countrywide demonstrations that have for the past month been calling for her resignation.
Amid much tears from organizers Seodi White and the Gender Minister Mary Thom Navicha, the two bemoaned what they called as gender injustice, victimization of women, and misogyny in Malawi.
The FCW called for and held a solidarity demonstration on Wednesday July 10, 2019 to protest the victimization of the MEC Chairperson. In Blantyre, having ferried thousands of women from Thyolo, Mulanje, sand Phalombe, FCW gave the marchers “I am Jane Ansah” T-shirts, K3,000, and solidarity placards. The matchers marched and presented a letter of protest to Minister of Gender.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
However, while the “Jane Ansah issue not a gender issue” has been undertaken by another column already, it is the assertion “I am Jane Ansah” and other aspects of the solidarity demonstration that will be discussed in this discourse. Because the matter of the May 21, 2019 Tripartite Elections is before the Constitutional Court, the merits or demerits of some aspects of the issue, will not be raised.
At the outset, it must be stated that you, members of the Forum for Concerned Women and demonstrators, are neither collectively nor singulary “Justice Dr. Jane Ansah,” Malawi Supreme Court Justice and Chairperson of the MEC.”
You are not Justice Dr. Jane Ansah, she is Malawi’s first recipient of a Doctor of Laws degree.
You are not Justice Dr. Jane Ansah, she is the second woman to qualify for the law degree from the University of Malawi.
There are, of course many other aspects of the nature and character of Justice Dr. Jane Ansah, but suffice it to say, she does not need this haphazardly prepared form of solidarity support, buttressed by a hoard of ill-inform people from the countryside. Justice Dr. Jane Ansah is doing fine without this Blantyre-only-based demonstration.
On the aspect of ferrying women from the rural districts of Thyolo, Mulanje, and Phalombe, it very sadly appear that the FCW went to great lengths, sourcing and handed out over MwK6 million of tax-payer moneys, to protect one woman, while leaving out and unprotected thousands of the ferried women. There are numerous video clips of the marchers walking the streets of Blantyre on Wednesday evening, going home; gone were the trucks that ferried them to the demonstration.
It is reported that the women that attended the press conference in Lilongwe received K10,000, while those ferried from the districts got K3,000. Perhaps there is nothing wrong with this; however, there are several concerns and questions that must be raised, posed, and answers given.
As noble as the gesture may have been in the minds of the architects of the Justice Dr. Jane Ansah solidarity demonstration, it would have been nobler to truly explain the purpose of the demonstration to all the participants. Thus, it would have been great to listen to the rural masses articulate their solidarity for the MEC Chair.
Sadly, there are reports of the women marchers expressing the reasons they were marching; their statements gave clear evidence that they were not properly appraised; some women did not know the person they were expressing solidarity for. This could be because Justice Dr. Jane Ansah, Chairperson of MEC, was simply referred to by the demonstration organizers (the FCW), simply as “Jane Ansah.”
In other words, the “I am Jane Ansah” demonstrations, demeaned the very high office of Justice Dr. Jane Ansah, the victimized woman the FCW purports the demonstration were held to protect from misogynistic and patriarchy system of male dominance.
There was also the discrepancy between city dwellers with dwellers from the districts in terms of the cash handouts. The press conference attendees went home with K10,000 each, while the women ferried from the rural areas were given K3,000, and some were outright short-changed and were only given the cloth and T-shirts.
On the use of the enormous amount of money from government offices and statutory organizations (about 6 million Kwacha), there arises the need for parliamentary oversight action on the use of tax-payer funds for political events. It is reported that the offices of the Vice President, Ministry of Gender, MACRA, ESCOM and others were ordered to provide resources to bankroll the FCW solidarity demonstration.
This was not a government activity, it was a DPP event; hence it has the appearance of an accountability moment for Parliament since allocated funds to the government for various projects, have been diverted for the benefit of one political party. What parliamentary vote was abused to finance the FCW demonstration? It would also be interesting to take note of who printed the T-shirts.
In conclusion, marchers in the Wednesday July 10 demonstration are not Justice Dr. Jane Ansah. Whatever she may have done in her line of work, she is capable of faring through; she does not need weeping or ill-informed solidarity sisters rushing to her defense. At the very highest of concerns, it is a travesty of justice that the DDP government continues to abuse tax-payers money for its party. This must stop.
Long live genuine democracy!