Malawi football faced a test of character after Football Association of Maalwi (FAM) two legal organs contradicted each other on the interpretation of FAM electoral code leading to an injunction that stopped the body’s elections.
It all started with aspiring presidential candidates Wilkins Mijiga and Willy Yabwanya Phiri and vice-president race hopeful Tiya Somba complaining to the appeals committee that there were irregularities in the run up to the polls.
Mijiga, Somba-Banda and Yabwanya Phiri complained that the electoral committee led by Dingiswayo Madise, had flouted several articles of the electoral code.
In the complaints the trio’s lawyer Lusungu Gondwe states:
“Our clients’ view is that at the barest minimum the list of 36 delegates [which originates from all the affiliates] must be ready at least 15 days before the general assembly. This is a clear statutory position in the FAM Statutes. This has not been complied with. The result is that you will proceed with the elections with delegates nominated in serious breach of FAM Statutes.
“With due respect, our clients believe the electoral committee must revisit its interpretation of Article 22 (5) as read together with Article 22 (3) of the FAM Statutes. Article 22 (3) only proves that a particular delegate appears on the list of 36 delegates required under Article 22 (1) which list had been compiled at least 15 days before the general assembly pursuant to Article 22 (5) of the Statutes. Article 22 (3) says nothing more than just that.
“Violation of Article 22 of the FAM Statutes wrecks obvious prejudice to our clients. They do not know the electorate. In other words, you have concealed the identity of the electorate. This is serious contravention of norms and best practices relating to conduct of elections.”
The complaint warned of a legal action in case the grievances were not addressed.
“Our clients demand compliance with Clause 22 of the Statutes. Inevitably, this will entail that affiliates comply with Article 22(5) of the FAM Statutes. In other words, the identities of the delegates (names and photos) be known at least 15 days before the general assembly.
“Our clients demand to be notified of compliance with the FAM Statutes by 1200 hours on Thursday, December 10, 2015. In the most unlikely event that we do not hear from you by the said date, our clients will exercise their liberty to appeal to the appeals committee and/or to the High Court of Malawi,” the appeal read in part.
In response the FAM appeals committee, chaired by Judge Lovemore Chikopa, ruled in favour of the trio.
“That there was no compliance with Article 22(1) as read with 22(5) of the FAM Statutes to the extent that it has not been shown that the General Secretariat of FAM received a list of names from affiliates pursuant to Article 22(1) comprising 36 names of General Assembly delegates .
“That this constitutes a flouting of the duties of the Electoral Committee as set out in Articles 2(1) and 6(1)(b),(c),(d ) and (e) of the FAM Electoral Code.
“The appeals committee, in order to maintain the integrity of processes of the FAM elections, hereby directs that the election only proceeds upon compliance with Article 22(1) and (5) of the FAM Statutes,” the ruling read in part.
However, FAM used its executive power and described the appeals committee ruling as invalid since it was convened without a quorum because only Chikopa and Patrince Nkhono were in attendance without the third member George Bakuwa.
FAM’s decision, according to president Walter Nyamilandu, was reached upon after consulting Fifa envoy Alexander Gros.
The complainants’ lawyers went on with their threat and obtained an injunction which Judge Kenyata Nyirenda granted restraining the polls from taking place.
Briefing the assembly on Saturday, legal advisor Jabbar Alide told the gathering that the association’s lawyers were challenging the injunction and that if they fail, Malawi risked being banned by Fifa.
Alide prayed that the court should vacate the injunction because football issues cannot be settled in ordinary courts or else Malawi would be banned by Fifa.
But Sulom legal advisor Gilbert Mitawa objected Alide’s submission and warned that he was in contempt of court since the matter was in court.
As the assembly waited for the injunction hearing outcome, some affiliates called for sacrificing of personal ambitions for greater good.
“The association has spent K17 million to prepare for the elections and someone stops it just because of his personal gains? Thats selfishness,” National Youth Foorball Association (NYFA) chairperson Mabvuto Missi said.
But Somba-Banda, who is Sulom treasurer, said it was a simple case of following electoral code.