With barely eight days to the 45 days within which the Constitutional Court said it would deliver its landmark decision in the presidential election nullification petition case, the Judiciary is keeping a tight lid on the exact date.
In an interview on Sunday, High Court of Malawi and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal registrar Agnes Patemba insisted that no date was set for the delivery of the judgement and that no special arrangements have been made for the same.
“We will let you know in the course of the week on the way forward,” she said.
On whether the Judiciary has made any special arrangements before, during or after delivery of the highly anticipated ruling, Patemba said there was none so far.
But Malawi Law Society (MLS) said it hopes that the country is well-prepared to receive the judgement from the five-judge panel of the High Court sitting as the Constitutional Court.
MLS president Burton Mhango observed in an interview on Sunday that Malawi Police Service (MPS) and the Judiciary were yet to outline measures to be taken before, during and after the announcement of the judgement.
Without necessarily giving guidance to the judges, he said the society could have loved if the judgement was delivered in form of a summary rather than reading it out in its entirety.
Said Mhango: “We hope the ruling to be delivered in form of a summary rather than reading the whole judgement. We are yet to get communication from the court on the actual date.”
He also said he hoped the security agencies, notably MPS and Malawi Defence Force (MDF) are prepared to handle the aftermath of the judgement.
“We hope the ruling will be based on the facts that were presented in court and that there will not be any interference from the happenings of outside the courts,” Mhango said.
The five-judge panel comprising Healey Potani, Ivy Kamanga, Dingiswayo Madise, Redson Kapindu and Mike Tembo concluded hearing the matter on December 20 2019. The judges indicated that they would deliver their judgement within 45 days from that date.
In the case, two of the presidential candidates in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections—UTM Party’s Saulos Chilima (the first petitioner) and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) candidate Lazarus Chakwera (the second petitioner)—want the court to nullify presidential election results over alleged irregularities, especially in the results management system.
Incumbent President Peter Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who was declared winner of the elections, is the first respondent with Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) as the second respondent.
In an interview on Sunday, Chilima’s lead lawyer Chikosa Silungwe said they were yet to hear from the courts on the day of judgement.
“We hope to hear from the court tomorrow,” he said.
Silungwe said he would not make any further comments until the date of judgement is known.
On his part, former minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu, who is one of the lawyers for Mutharika, also said that they were yet to receive communication from the court.
Meanwhile, the National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust has urged political party leaders to use the remaining days to the judgement prudently by issuing press statements to Malawians that carry messages of peace.
Nice Trust has also appealed to Malawians not to resort to violence after the court verdict, saying violence is a vice and not a solution.
Nice Trust national programme manager Gray Kalindekafe made the call on Saturday at Mpinji Community Day Secondary School (CDSS) in Thyolo District during a peace-building sensitisation workshop the organisation held with the district’s opinion leaders.
He said: “We are about to hear the court verdict and we are appealing to all the party leaders to use the remaining time judiciously by being vocal with messages of peace, love and tolerance that can bring unity among Malawians and not messages that can bring chaos.”
The pending judgement has stirred panic among Malawians with some sharing tips on social media platforms that people should stock up supplies of food, fuel as well as prepaid mobile phone credit, electricity and water.
MDF referred us to MPS whose national spokesperson James Kadadzera said they would issue a statement on security measures this afternoon.