Malawi Govt Files Notice of Appeal Against Utm Registration - Judge 'Erred in Law'

6 November 2018

The Attorney General's office has filed a notice of appeal with Supreme Court of Malawi to challenge registration of United Transformation Movement as the UTM party.

High Court judge John Chirwa last Friday ordered registrar of Political Parties to register UTM within seven days and that the registration should be backdated to September 21 2018.

But Attorney General through Neverson Chisiza, Senior State Advocate, in the notice of appeal seen by Nyasa Times argued that High Court judge " erred in law and fact" by finding that UTM was not accorded an opportunity to be heard as if the party led by Vice-President Saulos Chilima was being accused of wrongdoing.

Attorney General cites Section 43 (b) of the Constitution of Malawi which simply requires that the party affected by the impugned decision by Registrar of Political Parries to be informed of the decision in writing with the reasons.

The State further accused the Judge that he " misdirected himself at law and fact " in finding that the Registrar, in exercising his statutory duties, should have restricted himself to what was presented to him and pay a blind eye to what is in the public domain.

"The learned judge erred in law and fact in finding that the limitation or restriction to the Respondent's Constitutional right did not pass the test obtaining under section 44 (1) of the Constitution when in fact it is clear that the said limitation is reasonable (avoidance of criminality), prescribed under the statute, recognized by international human rights standard and necessary in an open and democratic society," reads the appeal arguments.

The registrar of Political Parties had argued that the UTM did not present itself as United Transformation Party, but as the UTM in the application, yet in the public domain, it was known by its full name.

The judge faulted the registrar's decision, describing it as 'unreasonable and unjustifiable'. He also faulted the registrar for not exercising rule of natural justice to hear the UTM.

Governance expert and commentator Makhumbo Munthali told Nyasa Times that from a pure constitutional perspective, the Registrar let alone the Attorney General have the constitutional right to appeal the ruling of High Court if they feel not satisfied.

"This is something you cannot take it from them. However, a quick political economy analysis of the appeal at hand seem to suggest that this might be the last attempt -at least for now- for the ruling party to further block the registration of UTM," he said.

Munthali added: "This is politically significant to the DPP mindful of the delays that sometimes characterise the hearing of a case which would mean that even in the event that they (DPP masquerading as Registrar and Attorney General) are not successful in the appeal verdict they will have managed to plant seeds of suspense in UTM supporters of whether UTM would be registered or not. It is one of those delaying tactics aimed at frustrating UTM supporters further with the hope that some would jump the ship hence reducing its chances in an election."

The UTM leader Saulos Chilima, who is the country's Vice-President, declared that the UTM, warned his followers that they would face turbulence, but asked them to be prepared and be assured of successful landing, come the polls.

Chilima, who broke ranks with the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to form the UTM, said they will fight the appeal.

"Do not be intimidated, we fought for this democracy; we fought to be free, if they decide to appeal, we will fight them there. Don't waste time with trivia or garbage," said Chilima.

He said Malawians fought for democratic rule in 1992, and went for the referendum in 1993, before the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) was kicked out in the first general elections in 1994.

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