Proceedings in a case where some civil society organisations (CSOs) want Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to reimburse about K13.9 million in donations by public institutions failed to commence yesterday due to the judge’s absence.
Presiding High Court of Malawi Judge Zione Ntaba was scheduled to start hearing the case in Zomba, but she was not available as she was attending her relation’s funeral ceremony.
Both lawyers for the CSOs Wesley Mwafulirwa and Chimwemwe Sikwese representing the former governing DPP confirmed the development after the matter was adjourned to a date yet to be set
Said Mwafulirwa: “The judge has lost an uncle so, being an emergency, the case has been adjourned. We will file a notice of adjournment and will be waiting for the court to give us a new date.”
He said both parties were ready for trial. In the case, five organisations want the former governing DPP to refund the funds in donations by public institutions, arguing the gesture to donate public funds to a political party, then in government, amounted to misuse and abuse of public resources.
The CSOs pursuing the case are Centre for the Development of People (Cedep), Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, Youth and Society, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) and Livingstonia Synod’s Church and Society Program.
The CSOs also 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.
Yesterday, Mwafulirwa said they were expected to parade one witness, HRDC national chairperson Gift Trapence.
In an interview, Trapence, who is also executive director of Cedep, said he was prepared to testify.
The public institutions that pledged or donated money towards DPP fundraising drive dubbed Blue Night on July 29 2017 at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe include Lilongwe City Council, Blantyre City Council and Mzuzu City Council. Lilongwe Water Board,
DPP is expected to go it alone after the four parastatal organisations withdrew from the case and signed consent orders with the CSOs soon after the change of government following the court-sanctioned Fresh Presidential Election held on June 23 2020.
In November last year, the court held a scheduling conference which marked the first step before full trial which was expected to start yesterday after the parties engaged in mediation talks which produced nothing