Football Association of Malawi (FAM) Election Appeals Committee chairperson Justice Lovemore Chikopa and member Patrice Nkhono have resigned citing the association’s “failure to heed their ruling to postpone Saturday’s controversial elections” as the reason.
The Appeals Committee’s ruling followed complaints from presidential hopefuls Wilkins Mijiga, Willy Yabwanya Phiri and vice-presidency aspirant Tiya Somba Banda that FAM flouted statutes which demands that names of delegates to the annual general meeting (AGM) be revealed 15 days before the set date
Supreme Court Justice Chikopa, in his resignation letter tendered to the football governing body’s secretariat, disclosed that he was being insulted by some FAM executive members.
“There are some in the FAM executive committee who do not understand that it is possible to hold divergent views without having to indulge in gratuitous insults,” Justice Chikopa’s resignation statement reads in part.
In an interview, Justice Chikopa said he did not hold grudges against anyone.
“I don’t want to say much but it was a good experience to serve in the committee. I don’t have ill feelings against anyone,” said Chikopa.
On his part, lawyer Nkhono said he decided to resign after FAM went ahead to organise the polls despite the ruling.
“Justice Chikopa and I have shared the same concerns. If they ignored our ruling, it meant that they had rejected the validity of our committee. In this case, we would not be comfortable to continue working there,” he said.
Nkhono said he had not been subjected to any insults, but was quick to point out that Justice Chikopa had complained of being insulted while at the AGM in Mangochi.
“So if our chairperson Justice Chikopa is being insulted, it meant everybody in the appeals committee was,” he said.
Meanwhile, chairperson of FAM’s legal committee Jabber Alide confirmed receipt of the resignation but said that the cited reasons were weak.
He said the ruling they are citing was invalid because they did not follow rules regarding setting up of the appeals hearing.
“Article 12 of the electoral code says that appellants should submit their appeals to the FAM secretariat which later alerts the appeals committee but in this case the appeals were sent directly to the committee. The same article also says that the committee must have all three members [Chikopa, Nkhono and George Bakuwa] before hearing an appeal and making a ruling,” he said.
Alide said the appeals committee did not follow these procedures, thereby rendering their ruling invalid as clearly ruled by the Supreme Court of Appeal and Fifa.
“When we consulted Fifa, it said the ruling could not stand because the appeals committee flouted procedures as it did not have all the three members. And the Supreme Court said the same thing when ruling on the injunction against the organisation of the AGM,” he said.
Soccer analyst Charles Nyirenda said the resignations have left the football image battered.
“The whole electoral process left a lot to be desired. Now the current developments mean that stakeholders will lose the confidence they had in the football leadership,” Nyirenda said
The FAM AGM was delayed for about nine hours as FAM lawyers battled to discharge an injunction obtained by Yabwanya, Somba and Mijiga.
Walter Nyamilandu was later re-elected as president for the fourth time.
Meanwhile, Alide said FAM general assembly will meet to appoint replacements of Justice Chikopa and Nkhono who were appointed last year to run the committee for four years. n