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Court throws out Aford case

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The High Court in Lilongwe has dismissed the application Alliance for Democracy (Aford) secretary general Christopher Ritchie and others made for the cancellation of the December 27 2017 appointment and co-option of new members into the party’s National Executive Committee (Nec).

Ritchie—together with Dan Msowoya, Owen Mumba and Earnest Kanyenda— was also calling for the re-instatement of the convention organising committee that the party Nec elected on September 18 2017 and that Revamp Aford Movement (Ramo) should be attending meetings of the organising committee as observers.

In their March 13 2018 application, the applicants also wanted the court to compel the Nec, which party president Enock Chihana is heading, to appoint and announce within seven days of the court order the date of April 7 2018 as the date for the commencement of the party’s convention.

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But, in his ruling Monday, judge Charles Mkandawire said he failed to be persuaded by Ritchie’s claim that him [as secretary general] signed the minutes of the December 27 2017 meeting, which led to the appointment and co-option of new Nec members, under duress.

“Much as his version sounded interesting, there was not an iota of truth in it. I observed that Mr Ritchie was more bent to make things interesting in this court than telling the truth,” Mkandawire said.

The judge said, to show that there was no seriousness in the application, Ritchie signed two sworn statements in the court but did not include any sentence that he had been intimidated to sign the minutes of the meeting.

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“I, therefore, found the claim of duress or intimidation as an afterthought when he realised that the cross examination was getting hotter and hotter. No wonder, this claim came out during cross examination. I, therefore, take it that the minutes of 27th December 2017 reflect what had actually transpired at that meeting,” he said.

Mkandawire also said the sworn statement of Msowoya did not introduce any new thing to the debate and that, as much as he enjoyed Msowoya’s evidence, it is unfortunate that most of what he said was not directly connected to the orders that Ritchie was inviting the court to make.

He said it would be problematic for the court to re-instate the applicant’s preferred convention organising committee, which did not have the confidence of Nec.

On the participation of Ramo in the organisation of the convention as observers, Mkandawire said the court finds that to be problematic as the Aford constitution does not provide for that and it is the duty of Nec, not courts, to decide on such internal politics.

He then said he does not think it is the business of courts to be dictating to political parties dates for conventions as parties have internal structures for that.

“Political parties should not surrender their political sovereignty to the courts,” Mkandawire said.

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