5 judges to hear DPP case
Chief Justice (CJ) Andrew Nyirenda has constituted a panel of five judges to hear the case in which the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) wants the court to nullify June 23 2020 presidential election results following the High Court judgement that faulted the appointment of Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) commissioners.
In an interview with The Daily Times Tuesday, Registrar of the High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal Gladys Gondwe said Nyirenda had named a panel that includes judges Sylvester Kalembera, Rowland Mbvundula, Dorothy NyaKaunda Kamanga, Annabel Mtalimanja and Thom Ligowe to oversee the matter.
Gondwe further said this has been done after the CJ certified the case as a constitutional one.
“The panel is scheduled to meet on August 30, from which meeting we should have the roadmap on further conduct of the matter,” she said.
In June 2021, High Court Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda— presiding over a case where Malawi Congress Party (MCP) secretary-general Eisenhower Mkaka had sued the Republican President demanding the removal of four Mec commissioners sponsored by former governing DPP—observed that Mutharika, as the appointing authority, deliberately flouted the law by tilting the balance of power in the commission in favour of his party.
Mutharika appointed Jean Mathanga, Steven Duwa, Linda Kunje and Arthur Nanthuru but Nyirenda described the conduct of Mutharika in the appointment of the 2020 cohort of electoral commissioners as full of “impunity”.
Nyirenda said DPP and the then opposition MCP were supposed to have equal representation in the commission at three each; hence, the appointment of Mathanga, Kunje, Duwa and Nanthuru on DPP ticket was void.
“It doesn’t take rocket science to note that the interested parties [concerned commissioners] were not duly appointed,” Nyirenda said.
Mutharika appointed the current cohort of Mec commissioners, chaired by High Court Judge Chifundo Kachale, on June 7 2020 ahead of the court-sanctioned presidential election of June last year.
However, DPP moved the court to nullify results of the election, saying it was managed by commissioners who the court said were illegally appointed by Mutharika.
Meanwhile, University of Malawi Law Professor Edge Kanyongolo has said the certifying of the case has little legal significance.
“If he [the CJ] had not certified the matter, it would have not been the end of the case. It would have simply meant that he was saying that it is not going to be decided by a bench of judges but simply going to the regular High Court. Certification, in my view, does not have much substantial significance. It is just a procedural step that decides which court shall hear the matter,” he said.
In June this year, High Court judge Dingiswayo Madise referred the case to the constitutional court following his observation that the arguments made by DPP lawyer Charles Mhango raised serious constitutional issues which the Constitutional Court had to address.
The party’s argument is based on President Lazarus Chakwera’s decision to fire the four DPP Mec commissioners after the court said they were illegally appointed by Mutharika during his time as president of the country.