Minister for Africa for the United Kingdom (UK) James Duddridge has said judges of the High Court of Malawi, who presided over the landmark May 21 2019 presidential election nullification petition, were right winners of a prestigious international award for overturning presidential elections for rigging.
The five-judge panel of the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) have won the 2020 Chatham House Prize for protecting the country’s Constitution.
Duddridge, who is Conservative MP for Rochford and Southend East, pointed out in a tweet that the prize by London-based think-tank Chatham House recognises significant contributions to international relations.
“Delighted Malawi’s Constitutional Court Judges have won for their courage in the defence of democracy following the 2019 Presidential election,” tweeted the Minister of Africa for UK.
Britain High Commissioner to Malawi, David Beer also took to Twitter to state that the award for the five constitutional court judges is “richly deserved.”
Beer tweeted: “The actions of democratic institutions over the last year have cemented its international reputation and provided a strong example for other countries.”
The judges — Healey Potani, Ivy Kamanga, Dingiswayo Madise, Redson Kapindu and Mike Tembo — were recognised for bravery and independence after they cancelled the re-election of then incumbent Peter Mutharika in a historic decision for elections in Africa in February over “widespread, systematic, and grave irregularities” as prayed by first petitioner Saulos Chilima of UTM Party and second petitioner Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi Congress Party.
They ordered new elections, which were held on June 23 and won by opposition Tonse Alliance pair of Chakwera and Chilima.
The Chatham House Prize is annually awarded for “the most significant contribution to the improvement of international relations.”
“At a time when standards of democratic governance are under threat not only in Africa, but in many democracies, Malawi’s constitutional court judges set an example for their peers across the world by upholding the centrality of the rule of law and separation of powers,” said a statement from Chatham House , a world centre for research and analysis of international affairs established in 1920.
The five judges faced numerous threats and bribery attempts during the process, and arrived in court under armed guard while wearing bulletproof vests to deliver a ruling that overturned the election results and defended citizens’ democratic rights.
Chatham House director Robin Niblett said “the Malawi ruling is unprecedented in a country where past elections have been marred by irregularities, electoral fraud and violence.”
“The judges successfully asserted their independence in the face of significant pressures and the power of incumbency,” he said.
Minister of Information Gospel Kazako, who is official government spokesperson, described the global recognition as a “point of reference” in electoral justice.
Said Kazako: “Justice is like a lion when you release it out, it defends itself. When it roars everyone hears the roar. The world has heard the roaring of justice from the Malawi Judges. It is the sort of justice that doesn’t need any defence. It is defending itself. It’s there for all to see.”
Kazako said those who were still in doubt that the 2019 elections were fraudulent and unjust, “have now a point of reference at global level”
He said: ” Government is proud of these judges and expect them to continue being independent.”
University of Malawi dean of law at Chancellor College in the eastern city of Zomba, Sunduzwayo Madise said the prize was “a recognition that despite challenges, the country’s democracy is maturing”.
Malawi Law Society (MLS) president Burton Mhango said the society was “very proud of our five brave judges and our Judiciary” and the recognition must propel the country as far as the rule of law is concerned.
Reacting to the global recognition, Potani , who chaired the panel of the judge and has been elevated to Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal bench, said the five “feel very humbled and honoured.
Potani said the judges dedicate the award to “the entire Malawi Judiciary and indeed the Malawi nation.”
Malawi is just the second in sub-Saharan Africa to have had presidential election results overturned in court, after Kenya in 2017. The election of Chakwera was also the first time in Africa that an election re-run has led to the defeat of an incumbent.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :