By Tiyese Monjeza:
The High Court in Zomba Friday terminated mediation in a case where some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) want former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to refund money collected from statutory corporations for its Blue Night Fundraising event held on July 29, 2017.
Instead, High Court Judge, Texas Masoamphambe, has ordered the case to go into full trial at a day yet to be announced after DPP lawyer, Chimwemwe Sikwese, had challenged that the party did not commit any offence by receiving the donations, amounting to K13.5 million.
During mediation (journalists were barred from attending the proceedings), the two sides failed to reach an agreement in the case, where understandably representatives of the statutory institutions admitted to have offered the money to the party.
In an interview after the mediation hearing, CSOs’ lawyer, Wesley Mwafulirwa said there was no clear justification for the party to receive money from the parastatals, arguing the gesture translated into misuse and abuse of public resources.
“The DPP’s legal position is that it is not illegal to receive a donation. However, we are saying, as far as money is coming from a public institution, funded by taxpayers, it is not just ified for these departments to abuse the resources by offering it to political parties,” Mwafulirwa said.
During the mediation, Lilongwe Water Board, through its lawyer Khumbize Dossi, revealed to have offered K10 million to the party, and they have been rescinded from the case.
DPP Lawyer, Chimwemwe Sikwese, said it was unacceptable for the CSOs to demand a list of institutions and total costs which they offered to the party, arguing the party has a right privacy for t heir financial transactions.
“We will challenge this once trial commences. We did not even receive some of the money in question as some institutions only made pledges which were never honoured,” Sikwese said.
HRDC Chairperson Gift Trapence said the case was a human right issue in the sense that it would ensure that ruling parties are not abusing their powers through abuse of public funds by conniving with government departments to release money which serves the interests of the political parties.
The state institutions that are believed to have made the donations included Lilongwe Water Board (LWB), Lilongwe City Council (LCC), Blantyre City Council (BCC) and Mzuzu City Council (MCC).
CSOs pursuing the case are Youth and Society (Yas), Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Centre for Development of the People (Cedep) and HRDC.