Parastatals that pledged or donated money towards former governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) 2017 fundraising Blue Night event have withdrawn from the case having signed consent orders with a lawyer for civil society organisations (CSOs).
As the case goes for full trial, with a scheduling conference set for November 12 2020 at the High Court in Zomba, it means the DPP will go it alone.
In the case, the CSOs are demanding that DPP refunds about K13.5 million in donations made by parastatals during the fundraising event of July 29 2017 at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe.
The parastatals are Lilongwe Water Board (LWB), Lilongwe City Council (LCC), Blantyre City Council (BCC) and Mzuzu City Council (MCC).
In an interview, while confirming that a scheduling conference has been set, the CSOs lawyer Wesley Mwafulirwa said they signed consent orders with all parastatals and that the case is now against DPP only.
He said: “The first to sign a consent order was MCC, which pledged K3.5 million towards the event. The other institutions, followed suit and we have signed consent orders with all of them.”
After MCC, the CSOs signed a consent order with LCC whose lawyer, Zeros Matumba, confirmed they are no longer party to the case.
He said: “As parties, we signed a consent, and submitted to the court to endorse it. It means we are not part of the case.”
On his part, lawyer representing DPP Chimwemwe Sikwese said they were yet to see the signed consent orders between the claimants and the parastatals.
He said: “We understand they had entered into some consent agreement as to how they resolve the issues, but we haven’t been served with such. We are mere co-respondents and each party has its own case.“
The High Court in Zomba has since set November 12 2020 for a scheduling conference, which is the first step before full trial starts after the failed mediation talks.
A notice from the High Court in Zomba dated October 21 2020 shows that the conference will be presided over by Justice Zione Ntaba.
During a fundraising dinner and dance branded ‘Blue Night’ at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe on July 29 2017, where former president Peter Mutharika was the guest of honour, DPP allegedly received about K13.5 million from public institutions.
The CSOs argued the gesture amounted to misuse and abuse of public resources. They sought a declaration of the court that the donations to DPP contravene the doctrine of public trust, the Constitution and the Public Finance Management Act.