Governance experts and analysts have reacted to the ruling by the High Court in Blantyre that Vice-President Saulos Chilima’s movement be dully registered as a political party by Registrar of Political Parties using its abbreviation of ‘UTM’ instead of the full name United Transformation Movement (UTM).
Chilima had dragged the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties to court for rejecting to register UTM.
According to court judgement, UTM is technically registered as the Judge ordered that the registration process goes back to September 21 2019 when the movement made that application.
Reacting to the court order, legal expert Sunduzwayo Madise said the decision of the judge in the matter was “expected.”
He said: “That the Registrar has been slapped with [legal] costs is not unexpected too. Only sad thing is it will be our tax money that pay for this circus.”
Governance expert and commentator Makhumbo Munthali agreed with Madise that the Registrar of Political Parties’ reasons were not sufficient enough to block registration of the new party and described the court ruling as “victory for democracy.”
“The outcome of the ruling is not surprising if precedence in case law is anything to go by. It’s sad that our public institutions continue to be politicised by those in the ruling party,” Munthali told Nyasa Times.
“The ruling is victory for democracy, and sends a strong message to those in power that justice shall always prevail even in the context of state-orchestrated attempts to stand in its way,” he said.
Munthali said politically, the ruling has only managed in validating the claims by some stakeholders that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government is afraid of UTM, and that UTM is a force to reckon with in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
UTM secretary general Patricia Kaliati who was at the court on Friday said the new party had shaken the foundation of other parties and powerful people in government were using underhand tactics to frustrate it.
Meanwhile, UTM prepares to hold its first elective convention which was initially scheduled for November 9 2018, but has since been postponed to an unspecified date.
Chilima is seeking a democratic process to be picked as UTM torchbearer and is set to challenge President Peter Mutharika for presidency next year.
In a related development, an influential newspaper columnist has said the call by some government-sponsored civil society groups for Saulos Klaus Chilima (SKC) to resign as State Vice-President because he formed UTM which is fighting for the presidency lacks merits.
Steve Nhlane in his column published by the leading Nation publications pointed out that, the argument is one-sided and the CSOs are themselves double-faced and lack the moral higher ground to champion such a cause.
“To start with, the position of Vice-President is an elected one just like the State Presidency. SKC was elected by Malawians as Vice-President together with APM. That is why once in office the State President cannot dismiss him. This is because the position of Vice-President is ring fenced by the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi. And like APM, apart from voluntary resignation, incapacitation and death only Parliament—through impeachment—can the Vice-Presidency fall vacant.
“If SKC is of the view that he is better placed to contribute towards the development of the country as Vice-President or as President and as opposed to outside it, and that he stands a better chance to ascend to the presidency in his current position then, he should stay put. Besides, if the Presidency was to fall vacant now, Constitutional order would require that SKC and nobody else takes over. Voices against him maintaining his position as VP are just political,” the columnist wrote.
He also cites precedents when former vice-president Justin Malewezi was contesting for the presidency against Bakili Muluzi’s handpicked successor Bingu wa Mutharika, Malewezi did not resign as Vice-President.
“The Constitution allowed him to remain Vice-President. When former president Bingu wa Mutharika resigned from the governing United Democratic Front (UDF) in 2005 the party on whose ticket he became president and formed his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), he did not resign as State President of Malawi.
“Additionally, when former president Joyce Banda was expelled from the governing DPP and formed the Peoples’ Party (PP) in 2011 she remained the State vice-president even if she was excluded from Cabinet meetings. The framers of the Republican Constitution must have envisaged a situation where a vice-president would fall from grace with the ruling party and State President and sometimes on flimsy or political reasons and not for the benefit of Malawians. That is why they ensured the Vice-Presidency is protected by the Constitution,” reads the column.
He tipped the Fyson Chonzi led groups who are known to be sponsored by government that if they are serious on issues of accountability and good governance, before calling on Chilima to resign as Vice-President, they should also be asking President Mutharika to do the same “for betrayal of the people’s trust.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :