Explosive elections dispute case kicks-off Aug 8 amid political impasse, violent demos

Written by  MBC Online

The stage has been set for the kick-off of Malawi’s high profile and explosive presidential elections dispute case on August 8 at the constitutional court sitting in Lilongwe, amid unprecedented political impasse and violent demos since 1994 when the country embraced multi-party politics.

MEC Chair Ansah staying put. MEC Chair Ansah staying put.
07
August

The Malawi Congress Party (MCP) leader Lazarus Chakwera and UTM president Saulos Chilima petitioned the court to nullify the presidential results only which declared President Peter Mutharika winner with 1,940,709 votes (38.57 percent), against Chakwera’s 1,781,740 (35.41). Chilima came third with 1,018,369 votes (20.24 percent).

 

MCP and UTM leaders charge that MEC Chairperson Justice Jane Ansah rigged the vote in favour of Mutharika, basing their petition on results which were tippexed and have since joined rights activists who have staged violent demos dubbed #Jane #Ansah Must Fall.

 

They want Ansah to resign from her position, claiming she mismanaged  the May 21 presidential results.

 

Ansah herself has been adamant, saying she won’t resign unless a panel of five judges makes a verdict on the case. Other experts have backed her stance not to resign, saying it is a personal decision to thrown in the towel, while the electoral law says the Chaireperson does not necessarily need to resign over electoral disputes.

 

She also argues that Tippex is a trade name but it’s a correction fluid and the court will decide whether it was used to rig the elections or not. MEC, she maintains, never provided Tippex to polling staff across 5,002 centres in the country.

 

The Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), who have thrown all caution to the wind against staging destructive demos which has seen large-scale looting, destruction and burning of both private and public property, businesses crawling to a standstill and causing  fear among Malawians, say they will continue with the demos until Ansah walks out of Masankho House in Blantyre. They also want Mutharika to fire Ansah.

 

The MEC Chairperson has described HRDC demands as “mob justice”, saying the activists cannot be both accusers, jury and judges, before a competent court of law passes its verdict.

 

EPICENTRE OF VIOLENT DEMOS

But from August 8, Malawians will be gripped with the hearing and will tune in to radios to follow the court proceedings from Lilongwe, where security will be tight as the Capital City has been the epicenter of violent demos, with ugly scenes never recorded in the history of Malawi’s politics: A police vehicle torched by demonstrators, shops looted, police houses and units burned, a clinic torched and government offices also set on fire.

 

While the HRDC leaders are using the constitutional right to demonstrate, but they are being bashed for holding demos which have resulted in the massive destruction.

 

The mayhem and lawlessness moved the Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale, to seek an interlocutory injunction restraining rights activists Gift Trapence, Timothy Mtambo and the HRDC, from calling for, convening or conducting any demonstrations in Malawi calling for the resignation of Justice Jane Mayemu Ansah, JA, SC, Chairperson of the Electoral Commission.

 

The AG's application was dismissed by high court judge Kenyatta Nyirenda , who is said to ruled out that going by current legal position, there was no need to ban demos.

 

Kaphale said the judge did not address the substanttive constitutional matters and the rights of the majority people remain unattended to. He is set to appeal the ruling.

 

AG SEEKS RELIEFS

 

The AG, who is the legal advisor to Government, in a July 29 injunction seen by MBC Online, acting as Claimants, sought the following reliefs from the defendants (Trapence, Mtambo and HRDC):

 

1. A declaration that the decision of the defendants to hold demonstrations in the country, whose sole agenda is to seek to force the resignation of the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, to resign from her office, or to force the President of the Republic of Malawi to remove her from office on the pretext that she mismanaged the May 2019 Presidential elections is illegal as being sub judice, in view of the fact that there is pending in the High Court of Malawi, an electoral petition registered as Constitutional reference No. 1 of 2019 where Dr Chilima and Dr Chakwera are challenging the said presidential results as being tantamount to an undue return or undue election for alleged irregularities; The demonstrations are thereby prejudging the court case or are aimed at influencing the court to make a finding that the election was marred by irregularities.

 

2. A declaration that in protection of the constitutional right to property and security of the person and in view of the fact that the defendants have so far been unable to hold peaceful demonstrations so much that since the commencement of the demonstrations, the demonstrators have inflicted substantial damage and personal injury, and the victims of such loses, damage are yet to be compensated under Section 106 of the Police Act, to preserve the right to property and security of the person and to avoid infliction of further losses, injury and damage that the defendants shall not be capable of compensating for, the defendants should no longer continue to hold further demonstrations until they first make all make good the losses so far inflicted on innocent citizens and businesses or until they provide adequate financial security covering the losses and damage inflicted so far.

 

3. The AG said the defendants as conveners of the demonstrations are yet to compensate any of the victims of the demonstrations and it is not certain whether they jointly or any of them severally has the wherewithal to afford any suck kind of compensation.

 

4. The demonstrations are irregular and illegal in so far as the subject matter directly informs to or informs or influences the very same issue that is before the court in the petition referred to above.

 

5. 5. Further, since the commencement of the demonstrations, a lot of government and other property belonging to private citizens, worth billions of Malawi Kwacha have been looted, damaged and destroyed by the demonstrators and several people have been injured by the demonstrators in all the various cities, towns and district of Malawi.

 

A panel of five high court judges will hear the case.

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