Contempt charges for Mbendera, MEC: Judge grants leave to commence proceedings

High Court Judge Healey Potani has granted New Labour Party (NLP) president Friday Jumbe and several independent candidates including Allan Ngumuya leave to commence contempt proceedings against Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chair Justice Maxon Mbendera and all commissioners for going on with vote recount when the Judge had earlier ruled MEC’s results can only be challenged after they have been announced.

Lawyer Frank Mbeta confirmed to Nyasa Times in a telephone interview that Justice Potani granted the leave on Tuesday.

“The court has granted a leave to start contempt proceedings against MEC’s chairperson and other commissioners for they have decided to go ahead with vote recount defying a court order,” said Mbeta.

Justice Mbendera : Face contempt charges
Justice Mbendera : Face contempt charges

He said the action to go ahead with vote recount when there was a court order against it was a deliberate act of disobedience of the court order and lowered the court’s dignity and authority, which amounts to contempt of court.

Justice Potani earlier ruled that the electoral body has no powers to call for a recount of the votes before initial counting has ended.

But Mbendera, who is also Judge at the Supreme Court of Malawi, told a news conference Monday evening that the electoral body will seek a waiver from the court to extend the eight-day period for announcing results.

And the High Court in Lilongwe Monday ruled that the MEC can go ahead to conduct an audit of the May 20 Tripartite Elections results without interference in its decision until a judicial review is heard.

In his determination, Justice Ken Manda said: “The court further noted that considering that there are now several court cases relating to the May 2014 Tripartite Elections, it is recommended that the Registrar [of the High Court of Malawi and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal] should consolidate all matters pertaining to the determination and announcement of May 2014 presidential elections.”

The order vacating the injunction also added Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera as an interested party in the matter.

The current status raises the risk of post-election violence in the southern African country.

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