Court clears lecturer to contest: Kabwila, Chisi, Ngwale ‘smile’

In a landmark ruling, the High Court in Blantyre has ruled that a lecturer at University of Malawi is not a public servant and that Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) erred in barring them  from contesting in May 20 elections.

In making his determination in a case involving  Kamuzu College of Nursing (KCN) lecturer Matthews Ngwale, parliamentary candidate for the United Democratic Front (UDF) in Chiradzulu West Constituency, Justice Mike Tembo ruled that MEC erred in barring Ngwale.

The Judge ruled that employees of the University of Malawi (Unima) are not public servants, saying said the definition of public office as contained in Section 51(2) (e) of the Constitution was limited to public office in the civil service as decided by the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal in the case of Fred Nseula (deceased) versus Attorney General (1999) MLR 313 (MSC).

“The Malawi Electoral Commission [MEC] was not justified in its grounds for rejecting the respondent’s [Ngwale’s] nomination as parliamentary candidate in the forthcoming Tripartite Elections.

“This court subsequently directs MEC to accept the respondent’s nomination as parliamentary candidate for the UDF for Chiradzulu West Constituency. The acceptance should be done within three days,” ruled Tembo

The ruling, legal experts say, will effectively mean MEC must follow what the High Court has ruled in relation to other lecturers such as academician Jessie Kabwila who was barred from contesting in the forthcoming tripartite elections as a Member of Parliament (MP) under the banner of Malawi Congress Party (MCP).

Prof. Chisi:  Can run

Prof. Chisi: Can run

Kabwila:  Court ruling also reflects on her

Kabwila: Court ruling also reflects on her

It also reflects on John Chisi of Umodzi Party who was barred to contest as president as lecture of College of Medicine.

They are both on leave of absence.

The Malawi Law Society (MLS) already backed the eligibility of Kabwila.

MLS president Mandala Mambulasa said leave of absence in the case of Kabwila meant that there would no longer be conflict of interest if she held two public offices.

He said Kabwila had fully complied with Section 51 (2) of the Constitution because if elected, she would not be drawing two salaries from the public service.

“The rationale behind the law was never that people should resign from the public office for its own sake. It was to ensure that the candidate does not find himself or herself in a position of conflict of interest because he or she is holding two public offices or appointments,” Mambulasa said.

He added: “Consequently, although [Kabwila] may not have resigned as such, it is our considered view that Section 51(2)(e) of the Constitution has been fully complied with and satisfied by their leave of absence as the case may be.”

The president of Malawi lawyers said resignation from public office as required by the Constitution was in place to prevent people from using public resources for political campaign so that they should not have unfair advantage over others.

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