Malawi: For How Long Will Jane Ansah Hold On?

(file photo).

It is undeniable fact that since the national wide demonstrations started last month against Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Chairperson Jane Ansah to step down, there has been a wave of violence and looting.

Buildings have been vandalised, government and the ruling Democratic People's Party (DPP) offices have been set ablaze, shops have been looted while some individuals have sustained injuries. The loss resulting from the violence and looting is running into billions of kwacha. And the demonstrations are far from over.

Human Rights Defenders Coalition, the organisers of the demonstrations, have vowed to continue with the protests until Ansah resigns for what they term as 'messy elections' However, Ansah has been equally adamant. She has refused to resign, insisting that she will only resign after the court makes a ruling on the elections case slated to begin on 8 August.

Last week former president Bakili Muluzi tried to broker 'peace' by having an audience with HRDC to persuade them to suspend demonstrations. But he hit a blank wall. Instead they suggested to him to consult President Peter Mutharika, the appointing authority, to persuade Ansah to resign. Although the discussions between Mutharika and Muluzi were held, both parties have been mum on the outcome. President Mutharika has also not responded to the petition HRDC presented to him to fire Ansah.

Incidentally, both HRDC and Ansah have refused to budge from their positions. However, it is Ansah who is damaging her reputation and has more to lose. She is the bone of contention for the manner she presided over the elections which has undermined the public's confidence in her.

There is no peace in the land because of her and the turmoil is likely to continue until she resigns. There is nothing worse in life than for people and other issues to suffer because of your name. The fact that property is damaged or torched, shops looted and people injured because of the demonstrations against her should be enough grounds to resign.

Other equally important issues need to be brought to the fore. The economy is bleeding. The business sector is suffering because of constant closures while service delivery is affected. Reserve Bank of Malawi Dalitso Kabambe has warned that if the demonstrations continue they will affect revenue collection. Learners have stayed away from school, losing valuable learning hours. Criminals in townships are taking advantage of police absence to set up illegal roadblocks and demanding money from people before they can pass. All the mayhem is happening in the name of one person.

One would have expected Ansah to reflect on all this and do the needful. Even herself her life is disrupted. She does not have a life. It is unlikely that she still enjoys life the way she used to before the demonstrations. One can imagine how heavily guarded she is, cutting herself from society and following events through the media.

More importantly, she should ponder over the legacy she will leave when the storm is over? Certainly, she is unlikely to command the respect that she enjoyed before, never mind that she is Supreme Court judge. History will judge her harshly.

As the number of people joining the anti-Jane Ansah demonstrations is swelling and becoming more violent, one need to ask: for how long will she maintain the status quo?

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