Minister of Homeland Security, Nicholas Dausi, has filed a lawsuit against State vice-president and UTM Party presidential candidate Saulos Chilima for defamation over the 2014 Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) warehouse torching allegations made against Dausi.
Defamation is a “cause of action”: a basis for commencing litigation and seeking a remedy from a court.
Chilima made the claims during a campaign rally in Chtipa last week that the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was behind the missing of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras at MEC offices in Lilongwe, saying he was “not surprised” that people broke into MEC offices in Area 3, Lilongwe and went away with the CCTV cameras “because it is the same DPP, led by Nicholas Dausi, that set a MEC warehouse on fire in 2014.”
The UTM leader challenged Dausi or DPP to sue him over the claims “ if they want to”, saying “we shall meet in court.”
Now, Dausi, who had initially downplayed Chilima’s remarks as campaign talk, has decided to sue for defamation.
Ironically, Chilima was in the governing DPP when, on the night of July 15 2014, fire burnt the warehouse and destroyed some property, including ballot boxes scheduled for a vote recount in a contested Lilongwe City South East parliamentary election.
MEC declared DPP’s Bently Namasasu as winner of the parliamentary poll with 10 956 votes against Malawi Congress Party’s (MCP) Ulemu Msungama‘s 10 854, a difference of 102 votes.
But two days before a High Court hearing of the case, which followed a failed recount due to an injunction restraining MEC from going ahead with the process, the warehouse caught fire.
Hours after the arson, both MEC and MCP said they suspected arson.
Special Assistant to Chilima, Milward Tobias, said that the vice-president has not yet been served with the court documents.
Legal experts say the mere threat of litigation, or the burden of defending litigation, might be just as valuable as a court order: each may serve as a political weapon.
For politicians, re-election – or being voted out – is a far more potent remedy than a damages award from a court.