State opening of 5th meeting of 49th Session of Parliament coincides with second anniversary of High Court’s historic Constitutional ruling

President Lazarus Chakwera and Saulos Chilima during the Constitutional Court hearing

Maravi Express

In his preamble to the State of the Nation (SONA) address in Parliament today, February 3, President Lazarus Chakwera took cognizance that the state opening of the 5th meeting of 49th Session coincides with second anniversary of High Court of Malawi’s historic Constitutional ruling.

Chakwera as he was being sworn in in June, 2020

Chilima swearing in as Vice-President

“Madam Speaker, if I may, allow me to begin by taking a short trip down memory lane,” he said. “This third day of February is the second anniversary of an historic ruling by the High Court of Malawi, which sat as a Constitutional Court to examine the State’s conduct of the 2019 presidential election.

“Like all Malawians, I remember that day like it was yesterday. The most enduring memory I have from that day is of Dr. Chilima and I walking into that crowded courtroom knowing that we were not merely there as petitioners, but as servant leaders carrying upon our shoulders the weight of a nation’s hope for justice.

“In a 500-page judgment whose summation took over 10 hours to deliver, the five Justices of the High Court not only unanimously nullified the 2019 polls on account of widespread illegalities committed therein by the State, but they also ruled that the State’s reckoning of what it means to win a presidential election by a majority had been unconstitutional for over two decades.

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“For this reason, the Court further ruled that a Fresh Presidential Election be held within 150 days, making the June 2020 presidential election the first in which only the candidate with over 50% of the people’s vote would be declared victorious.

“These three consequential orders of the Court were not only celebrated by Malawians, but were also upheld three months later by a unanimous ruling of the Supreme Court of Appeal and accorded international recognition five months after that.”

Chakwera said “on that February day, the electoral system of this country was fixed forever — it was fixed radically and it was fixed legally.

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“The fix happened because Dr. Chilima and I presented our grievances to a credible and competent Court whose institutional independence was indisputable and whose integrity and courage in the face of corruption and intimidation was uncompromising.

“But it also happened because in presenting our grievances, Dr. Chilima and I publicly confronted the structural, administrative, and legislative gaps of a state institution that had allowed its agents to corrupt its operations.

“Truth be told, even though what the Courts did to fix the dysfunctional electoral system is celebrated worldwide, we as a nation have never truly had an opportunity to express to them our thanks.

“I believe that this anniversary of that ruling is a God-given chance for us to do so. The Justices who fixed that broken electoral system are here and the citizens of all 193 constituencies are also fully represented here.

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“I therefore ask all members of this House to stand and join me in applauding these Justices for the work they did to fix a system we all need for the enjoyment of our democratic rights.”

Today, on this third day of February, Chakwera said he and Chilima have walked into the august House in the same state they walked into that Court House.

“We have come here carrying new weights on our shoulders, burdens of the Malawian people, many of which require fixing other state systems as radically as our Judges fixed the electoral system.

“You see, fixing the electoral system while in opposition taught us valuable lessons about what it would take to fix other broken and corrupt state systems, whether it be the food system for achieving food security; or the economic system for creating wealth;

“Or the industrial production system for creating jobs; or the social and civic system for expanding and safeguarding freedoms; or the education and health systems for human capital development; or the governance system for delivering quality and timely public services to Malawians; or the justice system for fighting corruption and crime; or the geopolitical system for the global advancement of our national interests.

“One lesson we learnt is that even with a change of leadership at the helm of a state institution, even with good programmes within that institution, even with the good intentions of those who work in that institution, and even with good will towards the work of that institution, that institution will still fail to deliver on its mandate if the broken and dysfunctional system within which it operates remains unfixed.

“So for us to build a new Malawi, we need both an overhaul of our dysfunctional systems and an undertaking of good programmes by good citizens within them.

“Doing both at the same time is no easy task, nor has it been done before, which is why our efforts to fix the systems have faced fierce resistance from those who benefit from the status quo.

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“One effect of this fierce resistance against our efforts to fix state systems has been the delaying and disrupting of our programmes, triggering short-term pressures that make some people lose sight of the great strides we are making.

“To account for these strides towards our long-term priorities, the systems we must fix to achieve those priorities and diffuse the short-term pressures we face in the course of doing so, I have titled my address today: ‘Fixing Economic Systems to Deliver Long-term Priorities and Diffuse Short-term Pressures’.