Tycoon Thomson Mpinganjira and FDH Bank have withdrawn a court injunction which stopped activists Timothy Mtambo and Gift Trapence as well as Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) from dragging the financial institution into politics or alleged electoral fraud.
Mpinganjira and FDH Bank, a subsidiary of FDH Financial Holdings Limited, had on July 9 this year obtained a court order stopping Mtambo as HRDC chairperson, Trapence as vice-chairperson and HRDC from what Mpinganjira and FDH Bank said was “causing reckless, malicious and defamatory publication about the claimants”.
But in a swift turn of events, Mpinganjira and FDH Bank have withdrawn the order and have since signed a consent order with HRDC to close the matter.
In an interview on Monday, lawyer representing HRDC, Wesley Mwafulirwa, said the two parties had discussions with claimants’ representatives at the weekend and agreed that the injunction would be withdrawn.
He said: “I can confirm that we had discussions which led to the conclusion that FDH should withdraw the injunction and they have done that. Let me also mention that we have signed a consent order effecting the same.”
Blantyre-based private practice lawyer Chancy Gondwe, representing Mpinganjira and FDH Bank, did not pick up his phone on several attempts, but the bank issued a public notice dated July 14 2019 stating its decision to withdraw the case.
Reads the notice: “FDH Bank has withdrawn the court injunction taken against the Human Rights Defenders Coalition [HRDC] after a cordial and frank discussion with HRDC leadership.
“The bank wishes to clarify that the injunction was not meant to stop HRDC from organising demonstrations on governance issues in the country.
“We, therefore, wish to advise the public that FDH Bank remains committed to serving Malawians professionally adhering to rules set by the regulator of financial institutions in the country, the Reserve Bank of Malawi [RBM].”
The initial reaction from Mpinganjira and FDH Bank followed recent demonstrations organised by HRDC on June 20, July 4 and July 5 to force Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah to resign for allegedly overseeing a fraudulent electoral process.
In a sworn-affidavit, Mpinganjira, who is group chief executive officer of FDH Financial Holdings Limited—the parent company of FDH Bank—and board chairperson of Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom), specifically makes reference to a document HRDC is said to have presented after the July 4 protests which alleged the involvement of him and his bank in financing the purported rigging plot.
MEC on May 27 declared President Peter Mutharika of DPP as winner of the presidential election in the May 21 Tripartite Elections with 1 940 709 votes or 38.57 percent.
Results announced by the electoral body showed that Malawi Congress Party (MCP) candidate Lazarus Chakwera was second with 1 781 740 votes (35.41 percent) while the country’s immediate past vice-president Saulos Chilima who led UTM Party came third with 1 018 369 votes or 20.24 percent.
Both Chilima and Chakwera have filed a petition asking the Constitutional Court to nullify presidential election results over alleged irregularities.
In his affidavit, Mpinganjira observed that HRDC had mounted a campaign against FDH Bank since publication of an article about a MEC bank account held with the bank.
Prior to the July 5 demonstrations, FDH Bank lawyers, Mbendera & Nkhono Associates wrote HRDC pleading with them not to target the business interests of Mpinganjira and FDH Bank.
HRDC responded to the letter by reminding Malawians that the protests were to be peaceful and not meant to target businesses, individuals and organisations.
But Mpinganjira said that despite the assurance and earlier plea, protesters in Blantyre broke glasses at FDH Bank Umoyo House Branch.