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Court shelves Juliana Lunguzi victory

By Macdonald Thom:

The High Court in Lilongwe has granted Dedza East parliamentary aspirant, Patrick Bandawe, an injunction restraining Malawi Congress Party (MCP) from recognising the constituency’s Member of Parliament (MP), Juliana Lunguzi, as the winner of primary elections held in November 2018.

Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda granted Bandawe the order Monday.

According to Nyirenda, the order stands until a further determination of main action or another court order.

“In view of the foregoing, and by reason thereof, the application by the claimant is granted. Accordingly, the defendant, by itself or by or through its servants and/or agents, is restrained from effecting its decision declaring honourable Juliana Lunguzi the winner of primary elections for Dedza East Constituency until determination of the main action herein or a further order by the court,” the order reads.

The judge, however, observes that although there was no dispute regarding the need to have the matter resolved as quickly as possible, “the parties do not appear to be keen to prosecute the case with dispatch”.

He states that, contrary to his initial direction, Bandawe was yet to file proof of service of summons and that MCP has yet to file defence.

“Obviously, as the matter stands now, the court is not in the right position to give directions regarding the further conduct [expedited or otherwise] of this case, particularly when there is no indication by the defendant that it intends to contest these proceedings,” Nyirenda’s order reads.

In an interview, Bandawe’s lawyer, Innocent Kubwalo, said, as things stand, his client is the winner of the primary elections.

“Basically, what the order means is that the status quo, as of today is that my client is the party’s candidate in Dedza East until the conclusion of the matter or any further order of the court. The court has effectively stopped the party from effecting its decision which disqualified the claimant,” Kubwalo said.

He said they are yet to serve MCP with the summons because the court is yet to sign the document which, he said, was filed together with the application for an injunction.

“We filed the summons on November 28 2018, the same day we filed an application for an injunction. Up to now, the court is yet to issue the summons. The documents are still on court file,” Kubwalo said.

MCP lawyer, Charles Mhone, said he was yet to brief his client on the court’s decision.

“We weren’t served with the summons. We are yet to respond to the summons because we are yet to be served. We are yet to advise our client. We are yet to discuss what we are going to do next,” he said.

In the primary elections held in the constituency on November 25 2018, presiding officer, Peter Chalera declared Bandawe the winner after amassing 821 votes against Lunguzi’s 815.

But in a statement released on November 26, MCP publicity secretary, Maurice Munthali, said the party established that, as a candidate in that race, having received votes that were insufficient for victory, Bandawe is alleged to have yielded the votes his supporters cast for him to another candidate, which is not only irregular, but also unethical and a serious breach of party conduct.

He said the Directorate of Elections, therefore, recommended that the candidate be disqualified and his votes discounted together with the figures of Bandawe. The party, therefore, declared Lunguzi the winner of the elections.

But when the matter went to court on November 28, Bandawe’s sworn statement was used in support of the application. One of the reasons he raised in the statement is that, in coming up with the decision to declare Lunguzi the winner, the party’s Directorate of Elections did not bother to hear his side of the story.

Two statements made by Joseph Bazilio and Maureen Kajedula were used in opposition to the application.

Kajedula, who is director of social services in the constituency, said when Chalera started counting the number of delegates behind Bandawe some of the contestants— Mussa M’bwana, Steven Biswick and Davie Kupempha—withdrew from the race and advised their delegates to stand behind Bandawe.

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