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Court orders Mec to respond to MCP

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By Macdonald Thom:

The High Court in Lilongwe has given the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) 14 days to respond to a letter the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) wrote about how phase one of voter registration was conducted.

In a petition to the High Court made on August 20 2018 MCP, Matthews Stonard, Jackson Lighton Chimphoyo, George Jenya, Emmanuel Wilson, Tanazio Kaliwamba, Peter Chisambiro and Charles Maliseni, argued that in the phase, which covered Salima, Dedza and Kasungu District, about 296,720 people were denied a chance to register.

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But in a ruling delivered on October 16 2018, Judge Charles Mkandawire said Mec’s failure to respond to MCP’s complaint of July 5 2018 led to the party to take the matter to court.

“It is the silence of the respondent that has certainly led to where we are today hence this quagmire.

“It is, therefore, my considered view that in the interest of justice, the respondent is hereby ordered within 14 days from the date hereof to furnish the first petitioner with a response or a decision relating to the letter of complaint of 5th July 2018. It is after that response that the first petitioner can find a proper roadmap,” reads the ruling in part.

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It, however, says since the other petitioners have not formally lodged any complaint with Mec, the court did not make any direction.

I n the ruling, Judge Mkandawire has also ordered Mec to pay costs of the action.

“In view of the fact that the responded has greatly contributed to the confusion in not responding to the 1st petitioner’s complaint, I order that the respondent be condemned to pay costs of this action,” the ruling further reads.

MCP Publicity Secretary, Maurice Munthali, has said he expects Mec to respect the ruling.

“Mec should have done the needful by responding to the concerns from the MCP in good time. The MCP could not have gone to court if the Mec was cooperative enough, by responding to the concerns in good time and accordingly. We want to appeal to Mec to comply with the directive from the court,” Munthali said.

Mec Director of Media and Public Relations, Sangwani Mwafulirwa, said the commission will have to look at the ruling first and thereafter decide what it will do concerning the issues it is raising.

“We have just received the ruling. As it has always been the case, our legal team is going to look into the issue, the commissioners will also look into it and deliberate on it and come up with a position, suffice to say that we respect the decisions of the High Court,” Mwafulirwa said.

In the July 5 2018 letter, MCP Secretary General, Eisenhower Mkaka, said there were many challenges that led to poor progress in the phase.

He stated that there were misconceptions that citizens would be able to vote as they already have national identity cards, and that registration had been unevenly spread by letting the first phase being conducted in the Central Region before there was adequate civic education.

He, therefore, demanded that Mec should intensify civic education, extend registration of the phase and that after the first phase, registration should be spread to all the country’s three administrative regions.

Mec is in the seventh phase of voter registration. Phase one was conducted from June 26 to July 9 2018. .

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