DPP leadership tussle rages on, High court halts Nankhumwa disciplinary hearing

On Wednesday, 26 January 2022, Justice William Msiska of the Lilongwe High Court granted a court injunction retraining the former governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) from proceeding with a disciplinary hearing over DPP Vice President Kondwani Nankhumwa’s alleged “undermining the authority of the President of the party and disrespecting the President contrary to Article 6 (1) (v) and vii of the DPP Constitution”.

In a letter dated January 18, 2022 and signed by the ‘Secretary of the Disciplinary Committee’ Charles Mhango, the party alleges that on or about January 5, 2022, Nankhumwa issued a press statement entitled “Response to professor Arthur Peter Mutharika’s Call Against the Use of the Late Professor Bingu wa Mutharika’s Face”.

Kondwani Nankhumwa

In the said statement, the party alleges that Nankhumwa described Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika as someone who was not known to the general populace at the time when the party was founded, and that the call by Professor Arthur Mutharika “was misinformed and lands on hard rocks”.

On January 19, 2022, Honourable Nankhumwa issued a public statement distancing himself from the purported press statement against Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika. He stated that he was in hospital receiving Covid-19 treatment when the said press statement was posted on various social media platforms.

The disciplinary hearing was scheduled to take place from 2 o’clock of Wednesday, January 26, 2022 in Lilongwe “to hear your side of the story on the above issue”.

But Nankhumwa, who is also Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, sought court’s intervention through his layer Gilbert Khonyongwa, arguing that “the purported Disciplinary Committee is not legally constituted as it has not been appointed or constituted by the National Governing Council (NGC) in accordance with Article 15(1) of the Defendants’ constitution and that it therefore lacks mandate and capacity to invite him or anyone else to a disciplinary hearing”.

Under section 15, the DPP Constitution provides that “(1) there shall be an established Disciplinary Committee comprising 5 members appointed by the National Governing Council to deal with cases of indiscipline within the party; (2) National Governing Council shall appoint Chairperson and Vice Chairperson of the Disciplinary Committee. The party’s NGC has never met since its last national convention in 2018.

In the civil cause number 26 of 2022, the High Court, 2022 granted the injunction in favour of Nankhumwa and against the DPP.

“We command you within 28 days after service of this Summons on you, inclusive of the day of service, you must either satisfy the claim or file with this Court a defence and list of documents. If you do not intend to contest the proceedings you must within 14 days after service of this Summons on you inclusive of the day of service return the accompanying Response stating thereon that you do not intend to contest the proceedings but desire a stay of enforcement of judgment, if any.

“Take notice that if you fail to satisfy the claim or to file a Defence and list of documents or return the Response within the time stated, or if you return the Response without stating an intention to contest the proceedings, the claimant may proceed with the claim and judgment may be entered against you without further notice,” ruled Justice William Msiska.

Nankhumwa is among DPP presidential aspirants ahead of the party’s elective conference next year. His competitors include Dalitso Kabambe, who is widely believed to be Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika’s preferred candidate, Dalitso Kabambe. Others include former finance minister Joseph Mwanamveka and Bright Msaka, who is also a former cabinet minister.

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