Malawi: The 'Female Faces' of Malawi Election Case - Kamanga, Gwalidi, Nkhoma

7 December 2019

In a country, and in a world, where gender imbalances continue getting bigger and wider, it was not surprising that the hearing of the May 21 Tripartite Elections presidential poll results dispute case was heavily dominated by men.

From the judges, the lawyers, the petitioners, the audience in the court room - men were always on the majority.

However, three women have made history and will be recorded by the next generation as the only female faces of the high level election court case that took 59 days of evidence hearing, two days of oral submissions making it 61 days in total.

Justice Ivy Kamanga

Justice Ivy Kamanga: On the five judge panel in the Constitutional Court to decide on poll case

Chair of the Women Judges Association of Malawi, Justice Ivy Kamanga is a well known versatile figure in the Malawi judiciary. She has always be heralded as a professional who believes in justice.

During the helm of cashgate cases, she was the first judge to jail former Tourism Principal Secretary the late Treza Senzani for her involvement in plundering government resources.

As a judge during the hearing of the election case, many social media influencers described her as always red alert when on the bench.

"Justice Ivy Kamanga's alertness is something. Always watchful and alert," wrote Onjezani Kenani a well known socio-political commentator.

Innocentia Nkhoma Ottober

MCP lawyers with Innocentia Nkhoma Ottober among them

The only female lawyer on the petitioners side, Ottober is well known for her professionalism and inspiration to girls who prefer to become lawyers in future.

During the hearing, Ottober has been the only female lawyer in a group of men representing both the first and second petitioners in seeking electoral justice.

Miriam Gwalidi

Miriam Gwalidi was steadfast in her testimony

Described by many UTM party supporters as militant and a foot soldier, Gwalidi demonstrated the bravery that women can master when put on the witness stand to face hostile lawayers during cross examination as the only female witness.

Engaged as a roving monitor by UTM during the elections, Gwalidi took Attorney General Kalekeni Khaphale head on in his attempts to intimidate her in the witness box.

Throughout cross examination, Gwalidi was always composed and responded without any trace of fear as she faced the AG.

Whatever the judgement the court will deliver in January, these three women - Justice Ivy Kamanga, Innocentia Nkhoma Ottober and Miriam Gwalidi - will remain the only female faces of the election court case.

The Petition

Chilima of UTM (L) and Chakwera of MCP are jointly asking the court to nullify the presidential poll results

UTM Party president Saulos Chilima is the first petitioner with Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) as the second petitioner. The case has President Peter Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the declared winner, as first respondent and Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) is the second respondent.

In their petition, Chilima and Chakwera, who have religiously attended the court sessions, are challenging the results of the presidential election over alleged irregularities, especially in the results management system.

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