Since Malawi was ushered into multiparty era, political errors have been committed and the political lifecycle has continued, witnessing errors of various magnitude and impact.
Based on the Supreme Court ruling on the Presidential Election case, I see the resignation of Dr. Jane Ansah as Chairperson of the Electoral Commission as a mark of the end – or to be safe – the beginning of the end of one of her greatest errors in Malawis electoral history.
Of course, I must hasten to say, overall, the reign of chaos Dr. Ansah was chief architect will get worse before normalcy is restored. So, don’t get your hopes up high too quickly.
Firstly, she insists that notwithstanding the court ruling, her conscious is clean. She believes she did what she had to do and only expressed interest to resign (subject to the appointing authority’s approval) because she respects the law.
As a woman privileged to sit on the highest bench of legal echelons on the land, she needed not sow seeds of mistrust in the system.
Her parting words insinuate a judicial system that cannot be trusted from start to finish. She painted a picture her colleagues in the judiciary are so incompetent to see her competence. The inference is quite pronounced.
Good thing is that she won’t take them head on but simply reiterate her position: “I am not wrong, good bye!”
Secondly, her lack of a sense of ethics is out of this world. Even if most people see nothing good in Dr. Ansah’s good bye, she should have realised that being a Supreme Court judge herself, her integrity was the biggest asset.
Quitting from public office is a critical ethical decision when an individual faces widespread criticism. Leaving should not be seen as losing or admission of guilt.
Even if it were losing, not all losses are bad. Sometimes an arrogant approach to winning deprives us of a much deserved legacy! Tell me, how much legacy does Dr. Ansah have, at least as Chairperson of the Electoral Commission?
Trust me, the fact that she is one of few women to ascend to the highest judicial office does not amount to anything. Tell me, who would be proud to hear her daughter aspire to become “Dr. Jane Ansah” when she grows up? Trust me again, the split persona would attract some jerky reaction to the parent before an answer is arrived at: which Ansah? The intelligent judge or arrogant elections referee?
Looking at this basic example shows us that resignation is indeed a moral basic. A requisite for one’s own peace of mind and, since public office is a trust, those to whom you owe the trust. Resignation should be something one should be ready to take for integrity’s sake.
There are no two ways about it. There is option one: trading off one’s integrity with today’s bread or reconciling with your soiled past trying to restore lost glory.
Usually, the latter option works in the medium to long term. But the former, which was, sadly, Ansah’s choice, is dependant on God’s will. But even God does not like those with a penchant of arrogance and spiteful attitude.
Would it be moral to insist on working even when confidence of those whom you owe trust have lost confidence in you? Would it be moral to safeguard your emoluments and benefits even if it means “wasting resources” through court battles with futility written all over?
Her failure to resign when it mattered demonstrated her lack of an attitude of taking responsibility. Dr. Ansah had a responsibility to run an election. In the event the election went wrong, not necessarily on account of her own negligence or incompetence, but as a leader, she should have resigned still. Why?
Well, a leader should be accountable. You can’t expect to be accountable if you maintain the sit where your incompetence is being questioned. There is a local adage: “Mukaona wamkulu akukana kusuntha pamalo, dziwani kuti waipitsirapo.” This can roughly translate to: “If you see an elder refusing to move away from his seat, just know it’s the shame of pissing in his pants”.
Accountability is about individuals delivering on their promise. Dr. Ansah owed the nation the duty to conduct a credible election. She owed the nation accountability even for faults done by those under her watch.
If Dr. Ansah must be reminded, again, leaders need to demonstrate accountability by taking responsibility for the outcomes of their actions and decisions.
Imagine what would have been the situation if Dr. Ansah had chosen to resign? I think it would have provided her cover and leverage. How? Remember those pictures of her smiling with DPP supporters at the swearing in ceremony in Blantyre? Such imagery, insistence on not resigning and the many “tippexed” sheets illustrated a probable collusion. Resigning, however, would have given her a chance to keep her distance and allow the Electoral Commission to remain adjudicator of disputing parties and not a party to such disputes.
By failing to resign when it mattered, Dr. Ansah failed to demonstrate her leadership. She failed to demonstrate integrity, impartiality and accountability. These are critical assets to a Justice of Appeal.
When I shared the news of Dr. Ansah’s resignation, one of my friends cautioned me. She might have not resigned but notified the president of her intention to step aside upon the expiry of her tenure in June.
What if it’s an attempt to create a vacuum in the country’s electoral system thus disrupting the schedule of the court ordered polls?
Dr. Ansah is not daft. She couldn’t have just given up after surviving the 9 months of traumatizing demonstrations, dehumanizing slurs and threats of violence.
Whatever the case, the “error” has ended, or at least marked a beginning to end, and _Aunt Jane_ will proceed to rest. It remains to be seen if the resting will be peaceful.
But in as much as she has “purportedly left” the Electoral Commission, the legacy of the messed up 2019 elections will be on her head for a very long time.
Come to think of it, how much of the economy would have been improved if the election had been run perfectly well the first time? I have in mind the cost of the court battle, the South African lawyers, the loss due to riots and everything else electoral…
Now that she is done with the pre-occupation at the electoral body, I hope she will return to the bench with her chin up to help clear the backlog of cases on her desk. It’s just scary how it will likely pan out. Will she be trusted? That’s a matter of time. I can’t help to appear accused before her. It scares the hell outta me!
Perhaps that’s just my corrupt perception. Doesn’t she speaks very highly of her competence?
Everything else aside, there is never good in good byes. Ode, Madam Ansah!