By Duncan Mlanjira
The Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN) applauds the historic decision by the Malawi’s Constitutional Court to order a fresh and credible election within 150 days of the ruling.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, SAHRDN encourages all parties to accept the verdict and calls on the authorities to implement the court verdict in letter and spirit.
SAHRDN says Malawi can implement the court verdict in letter and spirit through fast tracking key reforms, including the 50% plus 1 provision to ensure that the rerun adheres to Malawi’s constitution, electoral laws and international good practices.
“In particular, the fresh election should be human rights centric, espousing the cardinal principles of peace, transparency, accountability and inclusion,” says the statement.
“As a hallmark of a democratic election, the rerun should be characterized by procedural certainty and outcome uncertainty i.e. without a predetermined result.”
The statement says Mozambique’s Prof Adriano Nuvunga is part of SAHRDN’s solidarity mission in Malawi.
“The rerun, just like the con-court ruling should set an illuminating pathway on how to conduct a high quality, democratic poll with zero tolerance to human rights violations, electoral fraud and systemic manipulation of the electoral processes in the region and beyond,” Nuvunga is quoted as saying.
SAHRDN also calls for the international observers’ missions to know when to lead and when to follow.
“The rush to endorse fraudulent elections, especially by regional and international observation missions, undercut their otherwise key role in promoting credible elections, worldwide.
“The nullification of presidential elections results in Kenya (2017) and now in Malawi calls for the regional and international observer missions to rethink their observation models, including Parallel Voter Tabulation, and place the views of and evidence from local civic groups at the heart of their observation reports.
“SAHRDN also congratulates our local partner in Malawi, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition for their leadership and resilience in fighting for human rights in Malawi, including the right for citizens to freely elect their leaders,” says the statement.
Meanwhile, Executive Director of the African Institute for Development Policy, Dr. Eliya Msiyaphazi Zulu writes that despite all the anticipation and hype about the electoral dispute court ruling on Monday, the underlying governance and development problems that Malawi is facing will not simply disappear and cannot be wished away.
Zulu says unprecedented demonstrations that the country has witnessed since the May 21 elections and increasing frustrations and lawlessness around the country, have laid bare that the post 1994 democratic dispensation has failed the majority of Malawians and mainly benefitted the political elite.
He writes: “It is obvious that Malawians are only seeking the electoral justice that the court delivered, but even more critically they are looking for far reaching legal, governance and socioeconomic reforms that will bind the leadership to govern the country and its economy in the interest of all Malawians.
“We need to find real solutions to the core problems that are ailing our country and subjecting us to a laughing stock among our neighbouring countries that are steadily making progress to improve the wellbeing of their people.”
He observed that this is a turning point for Malawi…to seize this opportunity and agree on concrete steps to rebuild our broken democracy and put in place systems and structures that will ensure that the country provides an enabling environment for effective delivery of social services and functioning of the private sector so that the majority Malawians thrive and not barely survive while enduring abject poverty, ill health, and a bleak economic future.
“Surely, Malawi should be able to progressively develop capacity for self-reliance and become less dependent on development aid, and we should optimise our agricultural potential too.
“Make sure that we feed ourselves, become the breadbasket for the region that we were before, and enable Malawians farmers make descent living from farming.
“We should not accept that it is fine for 50 percent of all Malawians to live below the poverty line and for 25 percent to be living in extreme poverty where they can’t feed themselves and take care of their families.
“We cannot take any pride in calling ourselves the “Warm Heart of Africa” when our way of governance and running the economy serves to sink the hearts, hopes and aspirations of so many of our people,” Zulu writes in part.