Prospects of former vice-president Cassim Chilumpha being on the presidential ballot paper in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections have hit a snag after the High Court ruled against his candidature for Tikonze People’s Movement (TPM).
High Court of Malawi Judge Mike Tembo blocked Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) from endorsing Chilumpha as TPM presidential candidate on the basis that his nomination papers had irregularities as he was not sanctioned by the party.
High Court and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal registrar Agnes Patemba and lawyer representing TPM, Maziko Sauti-Phiri, confirmed in separate interviews about the court order.
But Patemba clarified that the court’s determination did not mean the country’s former vice-president had been disqualified from contesting as President during the elections as “he may choose to be an independent candidate”.
While Chilumpha could not be reached on his known mobile phone numbers, MEC spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa and the electoral body’s director of legal services David Matumika-Banda stated that the commission would issue a statement once it is furnished with written grounds for the determination.
The matter began in February this year when TPM members, through
secretary general Rose Anthony, wrote the electoral body advising it
not to complete processing Chilumpha’s nomination papers because he was not sponsored by the grouping.
Among others, TPM argued that at the time Chilumpha was presenting his nomination papers to MEC, the group had entered into a formal electoral alliance with UTM Party and Alliance for Democracy (Aford) on February 2 to support one candidate, incumbent Vice-President Saulos Chilima.
Besides TPM and Aford, People’s Party (PP) had also endorsed Chilima’s presidential bid. However, PP, which is led by the country’s former president Joyce Banda, pulled out from the partnership three days later after UTM Party allegedly refused to give PP the running
mate slot which eventually went to Michael Usi, popularly known by his stage name Manganya.
In its letter, TPM further indicated nine out of the 13 registered TPM executive members did not discuss or approve Chilumpha’s presentation of nomination papers; hence, it was done in his individual capacity.
“Allowing Right Honourable Chilumpha to participate as a presidential candidate under the TPM ticket would lead to an absurdity of TPM being represented twice under its duly authorised presidential candidate and Rt Honourable Chilumpha,” wrote TPM in the February 12 2019 letter addressed to MEC chief elections officer Sam Alfandika.
But in his response to TPM’s complaint, Alfandika said as far as the commission was concerned Chilumpha’s nomination papers satisfied the requirements of the law; hence, its approval.
He said: “The nomination papers of Dr Cassim Chilumpha, SC, were duly counter-signed by Mr Grant Chimenya, deputy secretary general of TPM. The name of Mr Grant Chimenya appears on the particulars of office-bearers of political party of Tikonze Peoples Movement as interim secretary general.
“…the nomination papers were duly signed by an officer with authority to certify that Rt Hon Chilumpha was being sponsored by and standing for Tikonze Peoples Movement and his nomination was accepted and processed on that basis.”
Before responding to TPM, the commission sought Chilumpha’s reaction to the allegations made by the party against him where he defended his candidature.
In his letter of February 15 2019, among others, Chilumpha told MEC he was elected unopposed as TPM presidential candidate by the party’s special congress held on January 27, 2019 in Blantyre.
Not satisfied with the commission’ determination, TPM took the matter to court for relief under Section 114 (1) of the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act requesting the court to reverse the decision because MEC erred in its finding that Chilumpha’s nomination papers complied with the law.
On the meaning of the court’s determination, Sauti-Phiri said: “The High Court has agreed with us that the commission committed an error of law because nomination papers of Dr Chilumpha had irregularities.”
TPM was formed late last year following the merger of six political parties namely Malawi Forum for Unity and Development (Mafunde), Peoples Progressive Movement (PPM), New Labour Party (NLP), Republican Party (RP), Malawi Democratic Party (MDP) and Assembly for Democracy and Development (ADD) which was founded by Chilumpha.
If Chilumpha does not contest as per the court determination, it will mean that the 6.8 million registered voters will have seven presidential candidates to choose from when they queue to vote on May 21 2019.
Currently, MEC is printing ballot papers in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.