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UTM refused registration

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By Feston Malekezo:

Vice-President Saulos Chilima-led United Transformation Movement’s (UTM) bid to register as a political party, ahead of the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections, has hit a snag.

The Office of the Registrar of Political Parties, through Deputy Registrar of Political Parties Chikumbutso Namelo, has rejected the application on the ground that the movement “deliberately” presented registration documents in the name of UTM and not the full name.

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“I regret to inform you that I have decided to refuse the registration of UTM as a political party on the ground that the application is not in conformity with the Act in terms of Section 7 (1) as read with Section 18 (a) (i) and (ii) of the Act,” reads in part Namelo’s memo, dated September 21 2018, addressed to UTM legal firm, Rizt Attorneys at Law.

The movement filed the documents with the Registrar on September 13 2018 and the 14- day requirement expires today.

The memo further indicates that the movement filed wilfully the wrong information “to mislead the Registrar of Political Parties for the purpose of obtaining registration of the party”.

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“Please take note, that under section 17 of the Act it is an offence for a political party or any other combination of persons to electioneer in connection with an election in which political parties contest unless it is regarded as a registered party,” the letter further reads.

Meanwhile, UTM has up to 14 days to appeal to the High Court against the Registrar’s decision.

UTM spokesperson, Joseph Chidanti-Malunga, said they have not been communicated to officially about the rejection.

“There is no way we can comment on something we do not have an official position on from the Registrar of Political Parties. Until then, we do not know what to say. I think our legal team will take a correct position,” he said.

University of Livingstonia (Unilia) political scientist, George Phiri, has agreed with the Registrar’s position.

“If it is constitutionally required that any organisation needs to have a full name before it is registered, then the office of the Registrar is right. You know, UTM can mean anything; so, in order to be consistent with naming of the organisation, I think it is right that it should appear in full name and an acronym. But I am very sure that it (UTM) will be registered after making the corrections,” he said.

This is not the first time the Registrar has refused to register a party, as in 2011, Joyce Banda’s Peoples Party (PP) was spurned because other parties bore the acronym “PP”.

The party dragged the Registrar to court.

Banda, Malawi’s first female vice-president, founded PP after falling out with the late president Bingu wa Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party for allegedly positioning herself for the 2014 elections.

Chilima also ended his relationship with the DPP after falling out with his boss President Peter Mutharika.

Earlier this year, Malawi Electoral Commission indicated that the country has 46 parties, 27 of which had no details of existence.

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