COUNCIL of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) general secretary Fr Emmanuel Chikoya says what has happened in Malawi should be a wake-up call for all countries that the arrogance of abusing State machinery eventually backfires.

In an interview, Fr Chikoya said the whole electoral process leading up to the re-run presidential election in neighbouring Malawi highlighted why separation of powers was essential.

“The elections in Malawi are a learning curve. The whole process leading to the re-run is a learning curve and must be a wake-up call for all other countries in this region and even beyond, that if you take people for granted, the arrogance of abusing State machinery can only carry you to a certain extent, but it will backfire. We learn from the Malawian scenario the importance and a critical role of each wing of government. Every wing of government, the Judiciary, the Legislature, and the Executive have to be free and independent. They have to be autonomous so that they are able to provide guidance. The role of the security wings, again, they are there to protect not individuals, but ensure that the Constitution of the land is protected and the citizens of the land are protected, including all other stakeholders whether ruling or opposition,” Fr Chikoya said.

He said citizens get agitated in a country where corruption, vote-rigging, and electoral malpractices are the order of the day.

“People’s power is critical. What every country needs to learn is that we need a very well informed and empowered citizenry that is able to articulate issues regarding the affairs with their country, corruption, vote-rigging and electoral malpractices. There must be zero tolerance to that. So, when people are agitated and upset, they will win and carry the day. That is the lesson that we learn from the Malawian scenario. We saw people voicing out and demanding. We should not be requesting for our rights; we should demand that quality management of elections takes place,” Fr Chikoya said.

He also advised the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to serve the interest of the general population by providing a free environment for people to vote.

“Electoral commissions are not there to serve the interests of the ruling elite; they are there to ensure that democracy thrives and ensure that people can vote freely and that their vote is protected and not manipulated; the importance of having quality and credible alliances and working together in order to achieve a common purpose. The Electoral Commission needs to lay aside personal interest or partisan interest just to make sure that a country is redeemed and set free from the trajectory that will otherwise lead to destruction,” he advised.

“Those that are in office should not be arrogant and oblivious to what is happening around. People have to learn to listen and how to humble themselves. They have to learn to realize that the State apparatus are not meant to promote their selfish interests and their family or partisan interests. They are there to make the country run properly. It’s a lesson learned to ensure that citizens are alert and empowered. We need to have a citizenry that is knowledgeable in order to say no to abuses that happen with impunity.”

And Fr Chikoya observed that what transpired in Malawi had sent a signal that leaders who failed to listen to their electorate did so at their own peril.

“Signals are being sent and sooner than later if people don’t listen, they (leaders) will encounter the wrath of the people. They will encounter the collective power of the united people that are saying, ‘enough is enough.’ We congratulate the Malawian people. Job well done and we wish the new leadership all the best as they take on the mantle of leadership. There is power in numbers and there is power in laying aside our little, narrow interests for the good of the country as a whole. Thumbs up to the young people! Young people are energetic. Stop being used as tools of violence, stop being used and bought cheaply by those that want to use you and remember you during elections. Demand for much more. And much more means having a country where institutions can operate, where citizens can voice out, express their opinions, assemble and give peaceful protests. And the security systems must protect them and shield them,” urged Fr Chikoya.

Malawi’s new President, Dr Lazarus Chakwera, emerged triumphant in last Tuesday’s presidential election, defeating incumbent Peter Mutharika with 58.57 per cent of votes.

The historic polls followed Malawi’s Constitutional Court, which annulled former president Mutharika’s win in May, 2019, citing vote tampering.