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Mixed reactions as Malawi clocks one year after ConCourt election case verdict

ConCourt Judges
Justices Healey Potani, Mike Tembo, Dingiswayo Madise, Ivy Kamanga and Redson Kapindu

BLANTYRE-(MaraviPost)—3rd February, 2020 will still be remembered as a day Malawi witnessed the superiority of the rule of law. This is the day a panel of five high court judges namely Justice Healey Potani, Justice Ivy Kamanga, Justice Redson Kapindu, Justice Dingiswayo Madise and Justice Michael Tembo, sitting as Constitution Court (ConCourt) overturned the May 2019 presidential election results after identifying widespread, systematic and grave irregularities in the polls and called for fresh election.

The judgment, gigantic as it was, attracted much applause from the international community and the judges won the 2020 Chatham House Prize in recognition of their courage and independence in the defence of democracy.

The decision of the Court did not only imply that the then ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had to battle it out again but it also marked the end of their reign since its formation in February, 2005 by the late President Bingu wa Mutharika.

When Saulos Klaus Chilima, the then presidential candidate for UTM, filed a complaint to the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) protesting the victory of DPP’s Arthur Peter Mutharika, people thought he was just cry baby who just wanted to seek sympathy from the public. But finally the court proved all skeptics wrong.

“I have observed with concern that the serious irregularities that have been identified during the Tripartite Elections of 21 May, 2019 have not been addressed and satisfactorily dealt with. These serious irregularities have, in fact, worsened and, in the process, the credibility and integrity of these electiosn have been significantly compromised,” said Chilima in his petition to the electoral body.

He added: “In view of the chaos that has ensued under the watch of the Electoral Commission, I am calling upon the Electoral Commission for the nullification of the aggregated vote under the Tripartite Elections of 21 May, 2019. The country must regroup and prepare for credible elections to the satisfaction of the people of Malawi. We should not allow fraudsters to continue holding this country at ransom.”

As per Chilima’s prayer, fresh election was conducted and he partnered with Malawi Congress Party (MCP) as running mate to President Lazarus Chakwera. They are now in office serving Malawians.

But what are reactions from the public as Malawi is today remembering the 3rd February, 2020 judgment?

As expected, Many a Malawian are remembering 3rd February 2020 judgment with much excitement arguing this is the day Malawi that facilitated the exit of the corrupt and light-fingered DPP administration.

Law expert Ralph Kasambala, who was some years back convicted of conspiracy to murder, says the judgment marked the end of “DPP era and comedies.” 

“Today marks exactly one year since the High Court of Malawi nullified the 2019 presidential elections. That marked the beginning of the end of DPP era and comedies. The Press Statement below sparked the fight against the fraudulent and incompetent MEC. This was the beginning of a one-year journey that led to the oust of the fraudsters. Long live genuine democracy,” said Kasambara in his facebook post.

Dr. Sunduzwayo Madise, former Dean of Faculty of Law at Chancellor Colleg, told Zodiak radio in the morning that the ruling birthed a jurisprudence that will reverberate across time and space.

“History was made. The judges played their role admirably. This case had definitely changed the electoral landscape of Malawi.  It also provided valuable lessons in Constitutional and Administrative Law. The rule of law and democracy triumphed on that day,” said Madise, a brother to Justice Dingiswayo Madise, one of the ConCourt judges.

Nevertheless, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition argues that though the judgment was charged with excitement and high expectations, the current government under the leadership of Lazarus Chakwera and Saulos Klaus Chilima is not giving hope to Malawians who put a gallant fight to have justice served in the historic election case.

HRDC chairperson Gift Trapence said while the struggle for electoral justice was meant to create a better Malawi for all but it is turning out that things are moving in circles and it is a better Malawi for a selected elite few.

He said Chakwera administration is not delivering to the expectation of the citizenry.

“Malawians have completely lost hope in this Tonse government because of the broken promises,” Trapence said, stressing “this is the reality on the ground whether you like it or not.”

He said Malawians are frustrated with “slowness and lack of clear direction” of Chakwera government in dealing with corrupt officials in his government.

“Malawians hopes and expectations are doomed if things will remain the same. We need the President to be in control of the country’s affairs.

“We need him to be action oriented. This is the right time to release the cabinet assessment to Malawians. This is the right time to manage those individuals who think they are more powerful than the president,” he said.

HRDC championed change and led a series of street demonstrations against 2019 presidential election which at times were violent and many people lost their property.

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