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To Be An Electoral Commissioner in Malawi: The Truth Shall Not Set You Free!

Photo by Lisa Kadango

But these Commissioners can shout their voices until they crack; it will not change that they presided over a process marred with irregularities, forcing the (Con)court to declare it a nullity,writes George Kasakula on Nyasatimes.

This website agrees with many Malawians, including Mr. Kasakula, that the parliamentary Public Appointments Committee (PAC) hearings for the Commissioners of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) only exposed how misaligned the Commissioners are from the national interest. Their very admission to the existence of irregularities, which they consciously ignored, is unforgivable. And Malawians have this rare chance to not take nonsense for once, if the country’s democratic future is to keep public officers truly in check.

It’s clear that some of the Commissioners will never appreciate the gravity of their judgement and, especially, how their negligence determined a premature announcement of presidential election results that emerged out of a flawed system. Linda Kunje will be remembered for taking to the stage to remind the Members of Parliament grilling her that they enjoy their parliamentary seats all thanks to the same electoral flaws the nation was seemingly angered by. Or take Moffat Banda, who not only contradicted Jane Ansah, his boss, on whether the Commission was preparing for the fresh election called by the Constitutional Court (ConCourt), but refused to resign on the conviction that he deserved his gratuity for doing his service to the nation. Or, indeed, the testimony given by Mary Nkosi, known to have spilled more beans than the rest would have wanted to do, who instead elected to devalue the integrity of the electoral process in order to cling to a hefty MEC separation package promised at the end of June 2020. Jean Mathanga could “feel no remorse” on the job she did in 2019.

Malawians are right to be angry.

Whether a confession has been squeezed out of the softness of Mary Nkosi’s admission of wrongdoing, or Ms. Kunje’s boorishness, the indisputableness of their collective incompetence cannot be ignored. Again, nor should it be forgiven. The glaring elevation of the Commissioners’ own interests above those of the people they were meant to serve has been delivered in the most uncunning ways.

Many people have sympathized with Mary Nkosi for her bravery to spill everything out to the Malawian public as soon as the PAC gave her a chance to open her mouth. This website finds her actions leaving much to be desired as much as does her counterparts' in the Commission. When she clings on for the sake of a lavish Toyota Prado and MEC's generous gratuity at the end of her service in the visible horizon, she dismisses the insults that such a preference levies on the poverty that the 70.3% of Malawians (World Bank, 2016) live in. By upholding a cooked election outcome against her own conscience, she is no different from the other greedy buffoons who yelled 'innocence' before the parliamentary PAC.

Here is the thing: Mary Nkosi failed to deliver what she was asked to do for the Malawian people. She had the chance to refuse to sign presidential election results whose process she’s admittedly having strongly suspected. Bishop Nkosi had the sole opportunity to call out the superfluous announcement of Peter Mutharika’s victory ahead of time, a key job description that ensures the election process is free of such irregularities she opted to rubberstamp instead. No, attempting to emerge heroic almost 9 months after the elections does not sound like what the hard-earned taxes of Malawians were paying her to do.

It’s doubtful Mrs. Nkosi would have come out the same way if the ConCourt ruled otherwise. No piece of evidence shows us she still wouldn’t have surely waited out her term and enjoyed a nice, comfortable drive to her village in a Toyota Prado she would have bought from Malawians at a token.

The process that unfolded since Monday, 10 February 2020 has taught us the value of good quality Commissioners.

We must adjust the principles on which we hire our public officers, particularly when they are Commissioners on whom the fate of all Malawians, all 18 million of us, rests and who can overturn that fate with a single day’s vote.

It goes without saying that good conditions of service are important for motivation. However, a clearly laid out process that evaluates their conduct while in office must be established to scrutinize the aptness expected of them before a multipartisan parliamentary PAC can approve their benefits at the end. And several other measures can be instituted too.

One instance could be that the emoluments of Commissioners are channeled through their sponsoring Parties, which get to be entrusted with the release of their benefits. That way, they truly go in to do the job of the constituents of their sponsoring Party and cannot be bought over by more influential Parties. Another could be that there needs to be a better balance of Party representation among the Commissioners. The current distribution of Commissioners, with 4 DPP, 2 UDF, 1 PP and 1 MCP does not appear to guarantee fairness of the MEC at all. Add Jane Ansah, its current Chair who is expected to be non-partisan, to the mix, and DPP has an overwhelming 5 Commissioners on its side.

Such a journey begins now. With an election slated for July, it’s a foregone conclusion that the current cohort of Commissioners has failed every Malawian and should not be allowed past the chains and locks that the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) installed at the MEC gates on Thursday, 13 February. They must retire, earlier than their contract expiration dates being the preferred option.

How we usher in new Commissioners will determine, to a degree, whether we will be in a similar position at the time of the next inauguration. As for the current group of Commissioners, we heed Mr. Kasakula’s call when he asserts, “they can wait for their benefits or lie the whole day that they tried their best until cows come home, but no one should believe them.”


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