Perhaps, with hindsight, Ama was not exactly confused when she expressed reservations on the conduct of the just-ended tripartite elections.
When his voice broke at the beginning of his epoch-making speech late Friday night, I do not think it was only in deference to the soul of the young boy who was needlessly killed in post-election violence in Mangochi. I think the good judge felt the weight of lording over chaotic elections easing from his shoulders and the sensation was too much he could not hold himself.
Look, Mbendera was frank enough to admit that these elections were fraught with problems, some of which could have been avoided with proper planning by his secretariat. He admitted as much when at some point he explained ‘we were let down by the secretariat’.
We started planning for these elections five years ago but it was embarrassing to see that we were still struggling to pay presiding officers from the last elections and drivers who would be delivering polling materials.
It was embarrassing to fail to deliver polling materials to Blantyre Secondary School Polling Centre, a short walk from the Malawi Electoral Commission headquarters. The explanation that MEC prioritised far-away places like Nthalire or Likoma does not hold water. Gurus at MEC should have planned how long it would take to reach Nthalire and how long it would take to reach BSS and synchronise the times.
As the top dog at MEC, Mbendera must take full responsibility of the shoddy work. But I think good old Max and his commissioners could only do as much; the nitty-gritty work was the preserve of the secretariat.
All along MEC has been assuring us all was well, it had all the resources it needed, only to tell us days before polling that it did not exactly have enough vehicles to move staff and stuff around. How embarrassing!
I personally would not advocate for Mbendera to fall on his sword. I think he has demonstrated a willingness to learn from mistakes and a readiness to accept responsibility. If it were left for me I would let him finish his term but give him a free hand to re-organise his troops at the secretariat.
Mbendera’s tears at the end must show us that he is only human, susceptible to not only making mistakes but also capable of accruing lessons from the same.