More drama in DPP; 22 MPs obtain court injunction Party’s appointment of Chaponda as Leader of Opposition

* I am satisfied that a good cause has been made out for the grant of an order of interlocutory injunction

* Subject to an inter partes hearing on the 7th of July, 2022 at 9:00 in the forenoon

* Chaponda is restrained from acting or holding out as Leader of Opposition in or outside Malawi Parliament

* DPP is also restrained from recognizing Chaponda as Leader of Opposition and further restrained from implementing its decision

* The status quo that existed before the said election is hereby maintained

* Any disobedience of this Order will amount to contempt of court for which committal proceedings for imprisonment may follow

By Duncan Mlanjira

A day after Malawi Parliament had recognised the appointment of George Chaponda as Democratic Progressive Party’s Leader of Opposition by inviting him to attend the National Assembly’s Business Committee meeting, 22 DPP MPs went ahead to apply for court injunction and were successfully granted on Tuesday, June 28.

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This also follows a press statement that DPP secretary general Grezelder Jeffrey issued on Sunday in which she maintained that Chaponda’s appointment — made at Party president Peter Mutharika’s PAGE House in Mangochi on Sunday, replacing beleaguered DPP vice-president, Kondwani Nankhumwa — should be deemed as null and void.

Jeffrey singled out anomalies of the caucus, saying it was attended by a minority number of MPs — both DPP and independents — “who were deliberately selected to participate in the election.”

“Many MPs were not invited. As a matter of fact, even myself — as secretary general of the party — was not and did not attend,” Jeffrey said, adding that “that no actual election took place, instead one independent legislator simply proposed Hon. Chaponda’s name and few others confirmed and the meeting then adopted Hon. Chaponda as having been ‘elected’”.

Mutharika presiding over Sunday’s caucus

The 22 MPs, led by MPs Werani Chirenga and Mark Botomani, who have obtained the injunction were the ones that were snubbed from the special caucus.

They are Nicholas Dausi; Ralph Jooma; Sameer Suleman; Ismael Grant; Yusuf Nthenda; Esther Majaza; Santigo Phiri; Bester Awali; Gertrude Nankhumwa; De. Susuwele Banda; Dr. Matthews Ngwale; George Million; Raymond Nkaya; Chione Mwale; Joyce Chitsulo; Reuben Kanyama; Francis Phiri; Noel Lipipa; Denis Namachekacjeka and Sandram Scott.

The injunction is granted by High Court Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda in Lilongwe — against Chaponda as 1st defendant and the DPP as 2nd defendant.

Upon hearing from their legal counsel, Wapona Kita and joint sworn statement of Werani Chirenga and Mark Botomani, and other skeleton arguments, Justice Nyirenda said he “was satisfied that a good cause has been made out for the grant of an order of interlocutory injunction subject to an inter partes hearing on the 7th of July, 2022 at 9:00 in the forenoon”.

George Chaponda

Chaponda was this “restrained from acting or holding out as Leader of Opposition in or outside Malawi Parliament” and that the DPP, is also restrained from recognizing Chaponda as Leader of Opposition and further restrained from implementing its decision of electing Chaponda to the position.

“The status quo that existed before the said election is hereby maintained,” said the Order. “Any disobedience of this Order will amount to contempt of court for which committal proceedings for imprisonment may follow.”

On Monday, Clerk of Parliament, Fiona Kalemba wrote Chaponda to congratulate the Mulanje South West MP and went on to invite him to the Business Committee meeting to be held in the Parliament Speaker’s boardroom on Wednesday, June 29.

Kalemba said the main purpose of the meeting is to prepare for the 6th meeting in the 49th Session of Parliament scheduled for Monday, July 18 to August 12.

“You are therefore being requested to attend this meeting in your capacity as Leader of Opposition,” said the letter dated June 27.

In her press statement issued on Sunday, June 26, Jeffrey — with emphasis that she was doing so in her capacity as secretary general, said she and others did not recognize Chaponda’s appointment saying Nankhumwa “was duly elected by over two thirds of all DPP and independent Parliamentarians affiliated to the DPP in an election that was sanctioned by the Office of the Speaker of the National Assembly unlike today’s meeting which deliberately sodelined other MPs”.

Jeffrey said following “the purported election of Chaponda”, the administrative secretary to the party, Francis Mphepo issued a letter but according to Jeffrey, “this communication is an illegality and against the DPP’s constitution because it is the secretary general who is mandated to issue letters of this nature”.

“Mr. Francis Mphepo is a secretary in my office band works under my instructions. In this case, however, Innever delegated or instructed him to do so.

“In view of the anomalies, I appeal to all DPP members and all Malawians to disregard the communication from Mr. Francis Mphepo and consider the said election null and void,” Jeffrey said.

In his press statement, Francis Mphepo said the appointment was done by “virtue of powers vested in the Party under Standing Orders 35 and 36 of the National Assembly” and that Chaponda appointment was also “under and by virtue of the powers vested in its Standing Order 35(1) of the National Assembly”.

The MPs present were Chaponda himself; Shadric Namalomba; Joseph Mwanamveka; Chimwemwe Chipungu; Bright Msaka; Vuwa Kaunda; Kilekwa; Gladys Ganda; Mzomera; Thoko Tembo; Ndebele; Mpanga; Mathanda; Fyness Magonnjwa; Chijere; Matola; Malowa; Masamba; Mavuto Bokosi; Malume Bokosi; Victor Musowa; Ben Phiri; Brown Mpinganjira; O. Shaba; Nomale; Chida; Charles Mchacha; Chambo; Mwina;  Kachingwe; Ndalama; Chimalira and Makande.

Absent were Nankhumwa himself; his wife Gertrude Nankhumwa; Jappie Mhango; Mark Botoman; Chimunthu Banda; Ralph Jooma; Noel Lipipa; Nicholas Dausi; Dr Ngwale; Dr Susuwele; Jusuf Nthenda; Sameer Suleiman; Majaza; Navicha;  Kwelepeta; Gadama; Kanyama; Namachekecha; Scott; Tambala; Mwambande; Awali; Grant; Mambala; Kutsaira; Chilenga; Mwase; Chomanika; Million; Phiso; Santigo Phiri; Nkhata; Kingston; Naeja; Chitsulo; Masebo; Bongwe; Naliwa and White.

Nankhumwa had also threatened to take Peter Mutharika to court if he went ahead with Sunday’s meeting through a letter from Nankhumwa’s lawyers, Chidothe, Chidothe, who had on Saturday advised APM not to go ahead.

Nankhumwa as Opposition Leader in Parliament 

The lawyers reminded APM that he was in contempt of Civil Case No. 898 of 2020, filed by the party’s renegades — Nankhumwa; Grezelder Jeffrey; Jappie Mhango and Yusuf Nthenda.

Just last Thursday, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) issued a statement censuring President Lazarus Chakwera’s administration and it it the civil society organisation bemoaned that the internal leadership stand-off in the high echelons of the DPP is collapsing its role as the main Opposition of the government.

A statement issued by national chairperson, Gift Trapence and his executive committee, said the DPP is being torn apart by internal fights — rendering it too ineffective to provide the necessary checks and balances as well as offer alternative policy options to Tonse Administration’s handling of national issues.

Several attempts have been made by APM to reconcile leadership differences rocking the party, which has its vice-president for the Southern Region, Nankhumwa at the centre of it all.

While some members of the DPP are touting Mutharika to contest for the DPP presidency and run for the state presidency, saying he was eligible having only served one term, Nankhumwa is on the ground to try and unseat him at the next DPP convention.

A failed reconciliation meeting

There are also other party presidency aspirants that include gurus like former Cabinet Minister Joseph Mwanamveka; former Reserve Bank of Malawi Governor, Dalitso Kabambe; Bright Msaka; Paul Gadama and David Mbewe.

At a political rally organised by the DPP’s Central Region executive committee in April — dubbed ‘Blue Saturday @ Mgona’ — the party’s vice-president for the centre, Zelia Chikale emphasized that APM has the constitutional right to stand again as the Head of State.

While assuring that it is up to APM to decide whether he wants to contest again, Chakale asked the huge gathering of DPP members if it was their wish for the former President to rule again — to which she received a resounding vote of confirmation.

She went on to say that anyone wishing to contest for the 2025 presidential race should quit the DPP and form their own party or contest for the party presidency during the DPP’s convention — at which APM will express his intention to retain the leadership.

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The DPP’s Regional Governor for the South, Charles Mchacha — who is Member of Parliament for Thyolo West and has in recent weeks made same calls that APM will stand again as Party president as well as contest for the country’s presidency in 2025 race — also reiterated his stand as a vote of confidence from the Southern Region and the rest of the country’s DPP membership.

He had concurred with Chakale that those wishing to contest for the country’s presidency in 2025 race, should quit the DPP and form their own party or to contest against APM for the Party presidency during DPP’s convention.

Chisale’s rally was preceded by that held by the beleaguered DPP vice-president, Nankhumwa which was also organised at the same Mgona venue.

Nankhumwa and Mutharika in better days

Nankhumwa’s leadership feud with APM has stretched since 2020 that started when his party president tried to strip him of his position as Leader of Opposition — a decision which he challenged in Parliament and was later fired from the party together with fellow renegades — treasurer general, Jappie Mhango; secretary-general Gelzeder Jeffrey and MP for Mulanje West Yusuf Nthenda.

The four challenged the dismissal in court and were later reinstated but the feud still remains — thus HRDC bemoaning that this internal political party impasse that is being deemed to slowly shaking the foundations of the main Opposition party.

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