Constitutional Court chair Judge Healey Potani has urged people who may feel aggrieved by a ruling to be made in the disputed presidential case to prevent anarchy and uphold the rule of law by appealing the determination in the Supreme Court of Appeal.
He was making concluding remarks in court in Lilongwe on Friday evening, on the 61st day of the historic case in which first petitioner Saulos Chilima and second petitioner Lazarus Chakwera are seeking a nullification of presidential results in the May 21 Tripartite General Elections.
The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) declared President Peter Mutharika the winner in the elections which had seen Chilima and Chakwera among presidential contestants. Mutharika is the first respondent, while MEC is the second respondent in the case in which the petitioners allege that MEC mismanaged the elections in favour of Mutharika.
“The determination will go one way or the other… There will have to be a winner and a loser, in a sense,” said Potani, leading a panel of High Court judges including ivy Kamanga, Dingiswayo Madise, Mike Tembo and Redson Kapindu.
“We want to mention that our legal or judicial system gives the disgruntled party a right to appeal, and this appeal will be in the Supreme Court of Appeal. We are not the final arbiter in this matter.
“We, therefore, do not expect –and I must emphasise this—that any disgruntled party will act, or react, otherwise other than by lodging an appeal, if at all,” he stressed.
Potani pointed out that among the citizens and political groupings in the country, Mutharika, heading the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Chakwera and Chilima –leaders of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM Party, respectively– command many followers and sympathisers who are keenly following the case across the country.
He stated: “It is. Therefore, incumbent upon the petitioners and the first respondent to prevail over their followers and sympathisers to accept the court’s determination and uphold the rule of law, except, of course, subject to the right of appeal.
“Anything to the contrary will amount to undermining the rule of law. Undermining the rule of law breeds lawlessness; lawlessness breeds anarchy. And what does anarchy lead to? Sadly, anarchy leads to a destruction of society.”
The Judge thanked all stakeholders in the case for their discipline and commitment to pursuing justice, pointing out that the journey had been long and epic. He said the five-member panel of judges would now go about sifting through the evidence in court before making a determination within the stipulated framework of 45 days from the last day of court sessions.
The court sat up to the odd time of 7:33pm on Friday. Potani announced that the Chichewa interpreters in the case had done a superb job that won them the 2019 Ombudsman Award of Excellence, as best public service providers (who enabled millions of Malawians to follow court proceedings in their vernacular language).
There was a loud laughter din in court when the Chichewa interpreter on duty tried to give a humble spin to the praise Potani was giving the interpreters, who used to work in shifts.