In a surprising turn of events, Mzuzu City Council (MCC) has signed a court order declaring that it will not honour its K3.5 million pledge towards activities of the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
In the consent order dated September 26 2017 signed by lawyer Wesley Mwafulirwa, on behalf of five civil society organisations (CSOs), and legal representatives of MCC, John Tennyson and Associates and witnessed by High Court Registrar at Zomba Registry Benedictus Chitsakamile, MCC has admitted making a pledge to the DPP during the party’s Blue Night fundraising dinner and dance held on July 29 at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe where President Peter Mutharika was the guest of honour.
Following the development, MCC—which was initially a third respondent in the case but has since been struck off—further commits not to ever make any contribution towards the DPP.
Reads part of the order The Nation has seen: “The third respondent admits that it indeed made a pledge/commitment to contribute K3 500 000 towards the first respondent’s [DPP] fundraiser; The third respondent undertakes not to pay the said K3 500 000 to the first respondent anymore;
“The third respondent further undertakes not to make any contribution towards similar future fundraising events of the first respondent.”
According to the order, MCC will be taken to book should it later transpire that it has acted in breach of the court order.
MCC has since been removed from the list of respondents in the case, leaving Lilongwe and Blantyre city councils as well as Lilongwe Water Board (LWB).
The U-turn has excited the CSOs with Mwafulirwa saying MCC’s admission is a victory on protection of the public purse.
He said: “This is victory because they will not pay that money, and have pledged not to do that in future, because if they do that, they will be in contempt of the court. So we have won in this instance.”
MCC was one of the public agencies taken to court alongside DPP for pledging to donate public funds estimated at K13.5 million during DPP’s Blue Night fundraising dinner and dance.
The U-turn came barely hours after initial reports indicated that the cash-strapped council, through its spokesperson Karen Msiska, said it had applied to the High Court to be removed from the list of respondents in a case in which five CSOs took MCC, DPP and other public institutions to court over abuse of public funds for partisan activities.
Last Wednesday, the CSOs—Centre for the Development of People (Cedep), Youth and Society (YAS), Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC), Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Livingstonia Synod’s Church and Society Programme—formally asked the High Court to grant them an order restraining the financially-struggling MCC from fulfilling its pledge to, in future, make a donation of, or about K3.5 million to DPP.
In the civil cause number 41 of 2017 filed last Wednesday, the CSOs want a declaration that the donations the public institutions made to DPP contravene the doctrine of public trust, the Constitution and the Public Finance Management Act.
Prior to the court process, DPP engaged the CSOs in dialogue, but the CSOs pulled out after the party postponed a scheduled meeting where it was expected to furnish the groups with names of institutions that donated to the party and the date it planned to refund the donations.
Initially, when the CSOs and Malawi Law Society (MLS), condemned DPP’s collection of funds from State agencies, DPP secretary general Greselder Jeffrey branded the criticisms as zachamba (nonsense), an utterance that angered the CSOs.
She later apologised for the uncouth language and engaged the CSOs in a dialogue that has since collapsed. n