Malawi Law Society asks MCP, UTM to recognize Mutharika as President of the Republic for the moment

By Duncan Mlanjira

Malawi Law Society (MLS) has asked Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM Party leaders to recognize and clearly inform their followers that, while the presidential election result remains subject of a challenge in Constitutional Cause No. 1 of 2019 at the High Court Lilongwe District Registry, President Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika remains the President of the entire Republic. 

MLS said this in a statement on the ‘state and the future of Constitutionalism and the rule of Law in Malawi, post May 21, 2019 elections’ issued on Sunday, 20th October, 2019 signed by president Burton Chigo Mhango and secretary Martha Etta Kaukonde.

MCP leader Lazarus Chakwera

MLS says the political leaders of these parties must themselves, as persons and institutions appearing to seek justice under the law, must not pander or succumb to political evaluation of every national programme or activity. 

“Their public reaction to events in the country must reflect a desire to build a united nation as opposed to a desire to seek mere political authority and public office for its own sake.”

MLS also asks Mutharika that while the presidential election result remains subject of a legal challenge in Constitutional Cause he remains the President of the Republic and therefore call upon him as the President to exercise his executive authority in the interest of national unity. 

UTM leader Saulos Klaus Chilima

“And [he] must not pander or succumb to regional politics or any form of politics as the Constitution locates the presidency within the national as opposed to regional or political party scheme. 

“The President’s conduct and involvement in the public sphere must reflect a desire to build a united nation under the constitutional order.”

MLS observes that on or around 12th July 2019 and on or around 1st August 2019, the Society advised the political leaders of DPP, MCP and UTM, the Malawi Police, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission and leaders of the HRDC of the constitutional need to have regard to the national interest and common public good as opposed to seeking to satisfy personal egos in pursuit of rights, duties and responsibilities in the management of the outcome of the presidential polls conducted on 21st May 2019.

Demonstrations against Ansah

“None of the addressees responded to calls made by the MLS. The political impasse and subsequent violence has continued to the detriment of the public as particularized in clause 4 hereof. 

“Unless decisive intervention is engaged the said political impasse is set to continue and risks disregard of the rule of law and the constitutional order adopted by the people of Malawi to the detriment of the general public.

“We call upon all the political leaders and addressees to our letter of 12th July 2019 to carefully consider and receive proper advice on the long term legal consequences of their inaction or failure to take control of their followers and the level of their possible personal responsibility should the nation descend into more violent chaos, damage and injury in the event of their followers failing to accept either outcome or any case management processes that may follow from the outcome of Constitutional Cause No. 1 of 2019 at the High Court Lilongwe District Registry.

Police clash with protesters

“We call upon all members of the public, including but not limited to leaders of HRDC, while freely and peacefully pursuing rights and freedoms under the Constitution, to desist from the tendency and temptation to assume legal correctness of their perspective on any electoral issues currently directly and/or indirectly being deliberated upon at the Court. 

“As a people we agreed under the 1994 Constitution that our differences will be resolved through the judicial system not through violence and/or instilling of fear in others. At the same time, we also agreed as people that our rights are inalienable but will be enjoyed responsibly.

Police and the MDF asked to respond responsibly

“The general members of the public and the media fraternity be and are hereby reminded to observe law and order generally and to avoid sensationalizing sensitive matters that can easily create anger, violence and disquiet. 

“With the advent of social media the public and the media fraternity is reminded that the use of electronic communication to disturb or attempt to disturb peace, quietness or the rights of privacy of others without any legitimate purpose is a criminal offence.”

MLS also strongly condemned the rising spates of violence and all forms of violations of other human rights by whosoever involved such as the reported attacks on the person or property of Timothy Mtambo, Billy Mayaya, Moses Kunkuyu, McDonald Sembereka or any other person attacked in the aftermath of 21 May polls. 

HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo

“We condemn the reported arson over the MCP Regional offices in Blantyre, DPP Offices in Mzuzu and Ntchisi or such similar attacks on persons perceived to be different political leanings from the attackers.

“We condemn the violence and the killing of Superintendent Imedi at Msundwe and the reported invasion of private homes and alleged harassment of women and suspects at Msundwe, Mbwatalika and Mpingu and the reported attacks on military personnel in Karonga as well as the reported violent treatment of citizens by military personnel in Karonga and Mangochi.

“We, therefore, call upon the Malawi Police and the Human Rights Commission as constitutional bodies endowed with such responsibility to thoroughly investigate and publicly report on each and every reported violation of human rights in the aftermath of the presidential election results announcement. 

“We further call upon the Malawi Police and the Defence Force of Malawi to responsibly and professionally ensure protection of public safety, protection of the rights of all persons and preservation of the constitutional order in the Republic,” says the statement in part.