The Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal on Friday adjourned to February 7 the case in which Mangochi West Constituency Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Geoffrey Chiwondo applied for a stay order of judgement.
Chiwondo, who is the third respondent in the case, applied for the stay execution of judgement following nullification of the parliamentary elections results and order of a re-run by High Court Judge Sylvester Kalembera on December 20 2019, for what he considered as irregularities and inconsistencies in the results.
The nullification of the results followed an appeal made by independent candidate Simeon Harrison, who challenged the results in which Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) declared Chiwondo winner with 4 527 votes against his 4 518 votes.
In his arguments before the court, Harrison claimed to have won with one vote after amassing 4 518 votes against 4 517 for Chiwondo.
But Chiwondo made a notice of appeal to the higher court and applied for a stay of execution of judgement pending hearing of the appeal, meaning he should still remain member of Parliament (MP) while the appeal is yet to be heard.
However, during Friday’s brief hearing in Justice Frank Kapanda’s chamber in Blantyre, Chiwondo’s lawyer Cassius Chidothe asked for adjournment so that they can respond to preliminary objections raised by Harrison’s lawyer.
In an interview after the hearing, Chidothe said as they wait for hearing of the appeal, emphasis is on the decision to have the stay order granted.
“The reason is that if we are appealing, we would want the status quo to remain the same. We would not want a situation where maybe we succeed in the appeal but events that occur go the other way round,” he said.
In a separate interview, Harrison’s lawyer Wester Kossam said the notice of appeal does not matter in such a circumstance based on the Parliamentary and Presidential Act.
Said Kossam: “Any appeal is governed by law, so we have vehemently objected to any attempts of stay, including an appeal because the Parliamentary and Presidential Act Section 114 that the High Court based its judgement on, says such a decision is final.”
After the hearing, Kapanda thus adjourned the matter to February 7 and further ordered that the appeal by MEC and Chiwondo, be consolidated following an application by Kossam.
MEC appealed to the same court on the basis that Kalembera did not consider some material facts and evidence prior to making his judgement. The commission’s grounds of appeal, according to court documents, is that, among others, the judge erred in law and fact when he placed more weight on evidence of the petitioner (Harrison) than on the evidence of both the first and third respondents (Chiwondo and MEC).
MEC is, therefore, seeking an order reversing the judgement, and confirming that the election was credible and that Chiwondo be retained as the legitimate winner.