Recounting one wasted year of post-election instability


It is over one year since the electorates went to polls in the May 21, 2019 Tripartite Elections that both the Constitutional Court and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal (MSCA) later nullified due to serious irregularities by the country’s pollster Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC).

The nullification came about after the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) leader jointly challenged the results with UTM Party president Saulos Klaus Chilima.

In ruins: Karonga DC office -Photograph by Jordan Simeon-Phiri

Angered by the results, led by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), people from across the country organised waves of protests demanding the head of the then MEC chairperson Justice Dr. Jane Ansah for the alleged mess.

It is no secret that the anti-Jane Ansah demonstrations have derailed the country’s socio economic development as the country was at a standstill for close to 12 months as angry rioters damaged, torched offices and looted shops throughout the country.

One such affected district is Karonga whose Council offices were twice torched by angry protestors, destroying vital documents in the process and paralyzing its operations, efficiency and effectiveness while Nsundwe rioters brutally killed a police officer Superintendent Usumani Imedi on October 9, 2019.

It is for this reason that electoral stakeholders and business people in the district are asking MEC to professionally manage the court sanctioned fresh Presidential elections slated for June 23 if riots are to be avoided.

Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) recently made the appeal during a Multiparty Liaison Committee (MPLC) meeting in the district aimed at finding long lasting solutions to conducting violence free elections in the district.

According to AFORD district governor Campbell Kaponda, the implementation of the electoral calendar is crucial and is the genesis of the road that leads to management of credible elections whose results will be accepted by all contesting candidates and their candid supporters.

“As Karonga residents, we are tired of demonstrations. Riots have destroyed government and public structures including businesses. All these protests were executed by anger stemmed from mismanagement of elections. Right now, Karonga is in ruins because a number of government offices were torched by irate people. As such, we ask MEC to prudently conduct credible elections,” Kaponda said.

However, MEC has always maintained its stand time without number that it has the capacity to professionally conduct free, fair and credible fresh Presidential polls.

Assurances from electoral stakeholders can be pleasing to both Karonga business community and service seekers at the District Council who are still recovering from the May 19, 2019 post elections riots.  Attest

One such business person is James Chagoma of Dechagos General Dealers whose business is yet to fully recover after waves of demonstrations paralysed sales.

Chagoma said the post elections violence demonstrations coincided with a K42 million bank loan he had acquired to inject in his business.

He said the past 12 months have been a hard path in his business, spanning five years as he had to service the loan amid declining sales due to political unrest caused by protests.

“I borrowed money from the bank with which I procured a K58 million borehole drilling machine in India. Unfortunately, the machine arrived few weeks ago amid the coronavirus (COVID 19), further worsening the business environment,” Chagoma said.

It is for this reason that Chagoma is appealing to all stakeholders to make sure that peaceful Presidential polls are held on June 23.

Kalilombe: political violence has paralysed operations-Photograph by Jordan Simeon-Phiri

Karonga District Commissioner Paul Kalilombe echoed Chagoma’s sentiments, saying the post elections violence has greatly affected operations of his office and its effects are dire.

“The effects of post elections demonstrations are there for all to see. The impact is huge. Apart from destroying buildings, we lost vital records for deceased estates, wills, land acquisition and marriage certificates. And again, it is time consuming for office assistants to cover a distance of one kilometer from one office to the other to deliver documents since we are now scattered due to limited space in borrowed offices,” Kalilombe said.

Kalilombe, has since appealed to authorities and the general public to engage in contact and dialogue whenever there are disputes rather than resorting to violence.

According to Kalilombe, about K300 million is needed to rehabilitate the burnt offices.

Kalilombe, has one message to political party leaders: “Conduct peaceful campaign with focus on issue based politics in order to build Malawi.

“Politicians ought to conduct themselves in such a manner that they don’t propagate violence before, during and after elections. Demonstrations have neither benefited demonstrators nor those demonstrated against. If anything, that has just plunged the country’s economy,” added Kalilombe.

Karonga District Peace committee chairperson Reverend Patricia Mzumara has since engaged the district chiefs, youth, politicians, the clergy and civil society organisations (CSOs) to discuss ways of preventing a recurrence of the May 2019 post elections demonstrations.

On his part, political science association secretary general Ernest Thindwa thinks that if MEC is to handle trust worthy elections, its Commissioners should rise above party politics to serve the nation with the utmost integrity by being transparent and accountable in the whole electoral calendar to produce undisputable results.

Thindwa has appealed to political parties that in future when coming up with names of MEC Commissioners they should identify and recommend capable people who are not affiliated to any political party to serve the interests of Malawians to prevent history from repeating itself.