The High Court in Lilongwe has allowed Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) aspirant for Lilongwe City South East Constituency, Rueben Ngwenya, to register in the voters’ roll ahead of the October 17 2017 by-elections.
The court’s decision follows an earlier rejection by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) of Ngwenya’s plea to be allowed to register as a voter. Ngwenya, formerly Malawi’s Ambasador to Japan, failed to register in the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections as he was away on a tour of duty.
In his ruling, High Court Judge Charles Mkandawire said the court was aware that Section 40 of the Constitution provides for political rights of every person in Malawi which is, however, derogable; meaning the right could be limited or restricted.
The judge observed that a by-election simply means an election of a member of Parliament (MP) to fill a seat in the National Assembly which has become vacant. He said the law does not say that a by-election is a continuation of the main preceding election.
Reacting to the judgement, MEC yesterday said it needed to meet at a roundtable to see the way forward after the court allowed Ngwenya to register and gives a possible window for other people who also missed registration in 2014.
MEC chairperson of the Electoral Services Committee, Jean Namathanga, said the commission is yet to meet.
Ngwenya challenged MEC’s decision on the basis that it was unlawful, unconstitutional, unfair, arbitrary, discriminatory and disenfranchising eligible voters’ participation in politics.
The Lilongwe City South East Constituency by-elections will be held alongside by-elections in other places that are vacant due to the deaths of the office holders, notably in Lilongwe Msozi North Constituency, Mayani North Ward in Dedza North Constituency, Nsanje Lalanje Constituency and Mtsiliza Ward in Lilongwe City West Constituency.
Ngwenya, Malawi’s former diplomat to Japan, rose to the ranks of Brigadier General in the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) until former president Bingu wa Mutharika appointed him ambassador to Japan in March 2011.
Before the judgement was passed, a lawmaker and lawyer Ralph Mhone told The Nation that the attempt by Ngwenya was an unconstitutional, citing a previous court case where an aspiring councillor for People’s Party (PP) in Chibavi Ward in Mzuzu City Constituency was rejected by the courts after he missed the initial registration, but attempted to register during by-elections. n