The High Court will continue hearing a case in which UTM leader Saulos Chilima and the party’s legislator for Ntcheu West Simeon Salambula want the court to oust Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) commissioners from the electoral body.
Initially, the application for the ouster involved all commissioners, including chairperson Jane Ansah, who resigned as MEC chairperson on Wednesday.
In an interview before President Peter Mutharika announced that he had accepted Ansah’s resignation on Friday, Khumbo Soko, one of the lawyers for Chilima said they will proceed with the case because other commissioners are still in office.
Said Soko: “The other commissioners are still there; and we don’t have instructions to stand down.”
Soko said the lawyers are trying to get the Chief Justice to look at the file and have it certified as a Constitutional case.
“We are making arrangements with the registrar. It’s likely that we might have a position by next week,” he said.
The Constitutional case Number 1 of 2020 filed in the High Court Lilongwe Registry on March 26 2020, has Chilima as first petitioner and Salambula as second petitioner, with President Peter Mutharika as first defendant while Ansah and all eight commissioners are second to 10th defendants.
In the summons, Chilima and Salambula state that Mutharika’s refusal to fire Ansah and the other commissioners following a recommendation from Parliament’s Public Appointments Committee (PAC)is, among other things, beyond his powers, illegal, unconstitutional and, therefore, invalid.
It further reads, in part: “A declaration that the 2nd and 10th defendants, having been found lacking capacity and competence by a competent body through a process they have not challenged, they are disqualified under law from continuing in office as commissioners…”
Chilima and Salambula also argue that the commissioners’ continued discharge of MEC’s mandate is and would be a violation of the voters’ right to a credible election.
In its February 3 judgement that nullified the May 21 2019 presidential election result over irregularities, the five-judge panel of the High Court sitting as the Constitutional Court faulted MEC’s handling of the election. The court asked PAC to assess the commissioners’ competences and capacity to organise a fresh presidential election.
The Parliamentary Committee then recommended the dismissal of the commissioners, but Mutharika refused to act on the recommendation.
Some members of the commission have vowed to remain in office with others challenging the validity of both the High Court and the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal rulings. One of the commissioners, Mary Nkosi, announced she is leaving the commission citing personal reasons.