This post was first published by the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network

The Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN or the Defenders Network) welcomes the ruling by the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) to uphold the ruling by the Constitutional Court on February 3, 2020 to nullify the May 21, 2019 presidential election and order a fresh presidential election within 150 days, including weekends and holidays from the day of the ruling.  Malawi has set a democratic precedent in a voter-centric ruling,  which gave a new impetus to the imperative of the separation of power as a cardinal principle in a democratic society, and the will of the voters as the flywheel of a democratic and credible electoral process.

While the SAHRDN welcomes the SCA ruling, it is however disturbed by the incidents of politically motivated violence,  which has unfortunately claimed two lives so far and the threats of targeted political assassinations as widely reported in the media.  The SAHRDN, therefore calls for a peaceful, free, fair, and credible election, which guarantees, at the minimum; the security of the voter; security of the vote; and security of the candidates. The SAHRDN acknowledges that the hallmark of a credibly free and fair election is marked by “procedural certainty” in terms of the rules of the electoral game, and equally important, “outcome uncertainty”, – that there should be a no predetermined winner.

The SAHRDN reminds all the contesting candidates that the primary focus of a  democratic contest should be “on the will to transform people’s lives, and not “on the will to power at any cost”, -including walking over dead bodies to the State House, and – ruling over a divided, bitter and broken society. This, just like any other democratic poll  should be a “let live” election not a “let die” election, where intimation, violence and political assassinations are instruments of choice to “harvest fear” on the election day. The SAHRDN abhors an election where the voters will not have to make a choice between contesting candidates but to be coerced to  vote for peace or violence, death or life.

The authorities in Malawi should demonstrate political goodwill, respect for human rights and put in place mechanisms to ensure a peaceful electoral competition with zero tolerance to and no room for the “margin of terror” and enhance the integrity and quality of the election to significantly reduce the “margin of error”. A disputed election is a seedbed of more violence and a threat to regional peace, security, and stability.


In light of the foregoing;

  1. The SAHRDN calls upon SADC, AU, UN  and the International Community writ large  to deploy qualified and experienced election observers without further delay.
  2. The SAHRDN  urges all political parties/alliances, and candidates  to commit to a Code of Conduct which makes respective political parties, candidates and individuals accountable for any acts of violence and violation of human rights and other fundamentals.
  3. The SAHRDN calls on the security forces, the parliament, the judiciary, the media and the human rights defenders, in particular, Malawi’s Human Rights Defenders Coalition  to continue defending the Malawian constitution and protect the citizens of Malawi, -including  female and male civic space and human rights defenders and people living with albinism.
  4. The SAHRDN also calls upon President Arthur Peter Mutharika and the Malawi Electoral Commission to implement all key reforms recommended by the Constitutional Court and upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals to ensure a free, fair and credible  electoral process, – with an undisputed outcome even during the COVID-19 global pandemic.
  5. The SAHRDN encourages all the key stakeholders, domestic, regional and international,  to spearhead an inclusive, sustainable and gender-sensitive Vote in Peace (VIP) “in an election with choice” campaign.
  6. The SAHRDNs also calls for an all stakeholderselectoral risk/integrity assessment to effectively mitigate against current and potential incidents of electoral fraud, electoral malpractice, systemic manipulation and electoral violence among other electoral malfeasances. Malawi should set a “gold standard” for the conduct of a credibly  democratic election in the region, and the world at large.
  7. In conclusion, the SAHRDN reminds the authorities in Malawi of its obligations and urges them to observe and respect their own constitution,  and respect the  international and regional statutes, treaties, protocols they are part too, including but not limited to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, the Africa Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections,  and the Maputo Protocol.


“Standing with HRDs during elections in the COVID-19 global crisis”

For more information please contact Washington Katema, Regional Programmes Manager at [email protected] or +27 73 620 2608