The High Court on Tuesday reserved judgment on a challenge by newly formed United Transformation Movement (UTM) against the Registrar of Political Parties' rejection of its application to register as a party.
The movement--which is led by the country's Vice-President Saulos Chilima who broke ranks with the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and declared he will challenge President Peter Mutharika in the presidential race in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections--is challenging the registrar's decision to throw out its application on the basis that the grouping flouted the law by seeking to register using its abbreviation UTM instead of the full name 'United Transformation Movement'.
In court lawyer from Attorney General's chambers Loness Michongwe argued that the Registrar of Political Parties was " justified" to look at what was in the public domain in declining the UTM registration.
Deputy Registrar of Political Parties Chikumbutso Namelo alleged that the use of the abbreviation instead of the full name was a deliberate scheme to mislead the registrar because there is another registered political party with a similar sounding name.
The deputy registrar was apparently referring to United Transformation Party (UTP) registered by businessperson Newton Kambala who earlier announced his partnership with UTM at the movement's rallies but has not committed to deregistering his party.
But UTM's lawyer Michael Goba Chipeta argued that all the necessary documents for registration purposes were filed and that the Registrar of Political Parties made a material error in law "to look beyond the documents."
Michongwe said it was right for the registrar to take into account what was in the public domain, sayng the name United Transformation Movement was already in the public domain so any reasonable registrar would have arrived at the decision he did.
However, UTM's lawyer Goba quashed the claim, saying any reasonable or well trained lawyer should not have made that assertion.
Instead, he says the legal question in the legal matters should be : what are the constituting documents and what do they say about the name of the party, and not what's in the public domain.
After all, he pointed out that there have been a lot of things in the public domain such as Chilima Movement, United Transformation Movement, and Transformation Movement.
Case was adjourned to a later date to be announced soon.
UTM interim secretary general Patricia Kaliati told the movement supporters outside the court that they will continue its mobilisation ahead of the election as they sort out the registration issues.
Chilima officially launched UTM at Masintha Ground in Lilongwe on July 21 and the movement has since been criss-crossing the country canvassing for support.