The Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal has upheld the High Court decision to reject the State’s application to suspend enforcement of an order to register United Transformation Movement (UTM) as a political party by close of business today.
Yesterday’s ruling by judge Frank Kapanda, sitting as a single Supreme Court judge, was the State’s third successive loss in the UTM case that has so far unfolded in a typical cat-and-mouse chase.
Said the judge: “The court below was right in its reasoning and its decision sustained and confirmed. If the appeal by the Registrar of Political Parties is successful, the Supreme Court of Appeal could as well, pursuant to Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, vary, amend or set aside the judgment of the court below. Thus, the fear of the appeal being rendered nugatory, pointless, or otiose is unfounded. In sum, the order of stay is refused.”
UTM is a political movement formed in July this year and is canvassing for Vice-President Saulos Chilima’s presidential bid in the May 21 Tripartite Elections.
In his ruling, Kapanda dismissed the State’s reapplication for an ex parte order, observing that there was nothing from the sworn statement of the deputy registrar of political parties to show that High Court judge John Chirwa improperly exercised his judicial discretion or misapplied the law respecting stay of execution.
Chirwa had on Tuesday dismissed an ex parte application by the Registrar of Political Parties through senior State advocate in the Attorney General’s (AG) Chambers, Neverson Chisiza, to set aside his own order to register UTM within seven days pending hearing of the appeal.
The High Court judge said there were no good grounds in the sworn statements by the State supporting the AG’s application upon which the lower court would have been persuaded to deprive a successful litigant of the fruits of his litigation.
In his appeal, Chisiza again argued that the appeal by the Registrar of Political Parties would be rendered invalid after UTM is registered by the end of business today.
In an interview later, he said: “The law states that once an applicant is denied an application before the High Court, the applicant is entitled to take that same application to the Supreme Court… That is what we did. The court has decided against our application for stay, but the one for substantive appeal is still intact.”
Reacting to yesterday’s dismissal of the State’s second ex parte application, UTM interim spokesperson Joseph Chidanti Malunga welcomed the Supreme Court’s ruling and accused the State of abusing its authority to persecute UTM and its supporters.
He also wondered why the State was apparently not willing to give up on the case which has claimed has no bearing on national interests.
On observations that UTM may be racing against time to ably set its political tone and bid for the forthcoming polls, Chidanti Malunga
He said: “We are not racing against time because the earlier ruling was that we should get registered by [today]… and we believe that by end of business [today] we should have our certificate so all the planned activities that we put forward such as the convention and others are still intact.”