Protest and power: how Malawi's double election reignited political passion

A voice was heard in the sky. Now was the time. The time for Malawi’s young majority to be heard, the time to take our place. The voice gave the nation the life it had lacked. Hope of a brighter future was restored.

For years a cliché picture of our nation had been set for the world to see. No one would describe Malawi without mentioning its poverty, political shortcomings and yet ever-peaceable citizens. A nation whose majority had missed out on seeing its glory days when other nations envied it.

Malawi is a young nation, with an average age of 17.5 years, and it was absurd to see the majority of young people remain silent. Everything became a “meme” in recent times where each individual thought of themselves alone, preferring to stay silent on issues of politics.

It was often thought by many to say we ought to be quiet to maintain our status of being among the most peaceful countries in the world. But at what cost?

Every fire starts from a small spark. All Malawi needed was a spark to once again raise the flame it is so named after; a flawed election, which ignited a rare moment of political frustration.

President Peter Mutharika, who was defeated in June’s election re-run (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

The nation was rocked to its foundation by youth marching on campaign rallies, wanting to make their voice heard. At the time they did not know that they would march for a year with the same cry, the cries of a falling nation.

A nation whose able people were being crippled in their silence. The cry came: ‘if you want true peace, you must fight a war’. And the nation’s people went to battle. A battle for their future, a battle for their children, a battle for their grandchildren, to liberate Malawi’s political space.

“It was no longer the job of the elders to lead the nation: now everyone old enough to think for themselves took the burden upon them”

The people were charged with adrenaline like never before, marching in the streets with their voices out loud. Their request seemed simple, “We need justice! We need an election that hasn’t been doubted! An election that has been accepted fully with no single complaint!”

Yet now this one seemed more significant. For the first time, it seemed everyone was glued to their radio following step by step where
the nation was headed. It was no longer the job of the elders to lead the nation: now everyone old enough to think for themselves took the burden upon them.

Every young person realised the truth of them being the ‘Majority’. The ‘Majority’, which as stated in the constitution, chooses the President. The Majority dictates where the nation goes. Therefore, the Majority chose to speak, not to fold its arms and let the wheel spin freely.

It no longer became a joke as to how the nation was running. Youth became active and proactive, building the courage to look into the eyes of authority and say “We are not blind!”

It seemed evident way before it was made official by the courts that there was something wrong with the election that took place in May 2019. It was obvious in the eyes of many that we have been derailed from our track and were near tipping point.

Lazarus Chakwera, victorious candidate against Mutharika
in June’s election.

For the first time all young Malawians saw one thing, we are no less than puppets, working just enough to keep the nation running, but not enough to match the syphoning of resources on the other end. The election proved with even more clarity the lack of democratic justice in our political system.

It was evident that, to Malawi’s political elites, young people are not seen as valuable or to have any meaningful contribution to the nation whatsoever. That they are just a ladder to an individual’s success. This raised even more anger among the Majority.

So, they marched. Where they needed to camp, they camped. All night with the same shout “We want justice”. This had no sign of stopping or fading out: people were committed, courageous, and willing to forget self for the good and the future of the nation.

3rd of February 2020, everyone was locked on their radio. The whole nation went to a halt as they listened to see if their fight was in vain. Among those glued to their radios, were the Majority. No one dared stay uninformed about this critical moment for Malawi.

Everyone sat anxious to hear what was to be said. Adrenaline rushing through their veins as judges read out a verdict of a long running case. And then, there it was. The first victory. The election had been annulled – the words “null and void” were chanted on everyone’s lips. Social media was flooded with victory posts.

This first victory showed the Majority that their voice is back. It has been restored. Now they can use it to speak, and they have. A few months later, medical professionals advocated for greater safety on the job. Prison wardens spoke for their pay. Police officers spoke, those working at the Councils spoke, even students spoke. Everyone spoke. The flame had started growing, everything that was hidden became evident to the world. The day of reckoning had come.

No one would suffer in silence anymore. They could speak now. They can speak now. The Majority has been set in its rightful place. The Majority can now be at the wheel of their future. But for how long? Were they just used as a stepping stone once more? A placebo of a revolution? Time will surely tell.

Featured image: Travis Lupick/Flikr