The African Court on Human and People’s Rights has given the Malawi Government a 10-day extension on the deadline to submit a response to an application for interim reliefs sought by dismissed Nkhata Bay Central legislator Symon Vuwa Kaunda.
Initially, Malawi wanted a 15-day extension, but the court based in Arusha, Tanzania settled for 10 days which run from May 27 to June 6 to make its submissions due to the ‘urgency’ of the matter.
A memo dated May 31 2021 signed by the court’s registrar Robert Eno indicated that Malawi requested for more time on May 28 2021.
Reads the response: “he registry wishes to inform the respondent State that due to the urgency inherent in processing the request for provisional measures, and by virtue of its power to grant such provisional measures suo motu as prescribed under rule 59 (1) of the Rules, the court declines the extension of 15 days sought by the respondent State.
“The respondent State is granted an extension of 10 days which are deemed to have run from the day on which it avers having received the relevant documents that is on 27 May 2021.”
Vuwa Kaunda has taken the Malawi Government to the African court to seek further review of the nullification of his May 21 2019 election as legislator by the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal in April this year. He argues that the declaration is erroneous.
The embattled Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) member is seeking provisional measures to stop implementation of the Supreme Court decision, including the fresh election in the constituency scheduled for June 29 2021.
Ministry of Justice spokesperson Pirirani Masanjala said he needed to confirm the communication with diplomatic channels.
In an earlier interview on Monday, he said the ministry was studying the notice of application from the African court as filed by Vuwa Kaunda.
The African court has material jurisdiction over allegations relating to violations of human rights contained in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights or any other human rights instrument ratified by the State concerned.
But in an interview on Tuesday, Catholic University of Malawi dean of law John-Gift Mwakhwawa said the African Court does not have jurisdiction over the decision of the Supreme Court in the election case.
He said: “The decision to annul that election was made by the court with full jurisdiction and competence, it was not a decision made by a political authority or the government of Malawi.
“It is not the Malawi Electoral Commission [MEC] that annulled Mr. Vuwa Kaunda’s election, but the court. It is not the government, including the Supreme Court of Malawi. I also don’t think the court in Tanzania has jurisdiction to stop the by-election. The court in Tanzania cannot be above our Supreme Court of Appeal.”
A private practice lawyer, who opted for anonymity, said the country’s Constitution places authority on local courts; hence, Vuwa Kaunda’s appeal to the African Court could be wanting.
Section 103 (2) of the Constitution reads: “The Judiciary shall have jurisdiction over all issues of judicial nature and shall have exclusive authority to decide whether an issue is within its competence.
“(3) There shall be no courts established of superior or concurrent jurisdiction with the Supreme Court of Appeal or High Court.”
Results of the annulled election as announced by MEC indicated that Kaunda won with 6 415 votes, against 6 407 for his closest challenger Ralph Mhone of People’s Party (PP).
Meanwhile, MEC director of communications and public relations Sangwani Mwafulirwa said in an interview preparations were underway for the fresh election as the electoral body is not party to the case.
He said: “Voter verification is going on and will close on 8th June 2021. Should there be any changes, people will be informed.”