Forum for National Development threatens MERA with lawsuit after serving MACRA with one

Two days after serving Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (MACRA) with demands to declare the status of Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) on its compliance to payment of license fees Forum for National Development (FND) also demanded the same from Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) over the appointment of Henry Kachaje as chief executive officer (CEO).

Both have been threaded with a lawsuit if they do not comply to the demands. MERA Board is being asked to make public the resolution made by whether to maintain Kachaje, who was appointed as CEO effective August 24, 2021.

The letter from FND lawyers, Adrian & Company dated August 25, contends after complaints from Richard Chapweteka, one of the applicants for the post who had also been interviewed, the FND — together with Parliamentary Public Appointments Committee (PAC) and the Malawi Human Rights Defenders Coalition — presented separate complaints to investigate the matter.

MERA CEO Henry Kachaje moves to curb fuel shortages

After the MERA was declared to have been incompetent in the way it handled the matter, the Board’s chairperson, Leonard Chikadya resigned and that the office of the Ombudsman established that Kachaje’s appointment was irregular.

The Ombudsman that ordered the MERA Board to cancel the appointment but on November 10, Board obtained an injunction stopping the publication of the Ombudsman’s report on the same.

Through the lawyers, the FND says following the enquiry made on February 18, 2022 by the Parliamentary PAC made to Government as regards to the “poor handling of recruitment” of Kachaje, Government fired the whole board of the Board of Directors and a new one was constituted by President Lazarus Chakwera.

The FND thus demands the succeeding MERA Board to advise the lawyers and their client on how it intends to handle the injunction that the former MERA board of directors obtained against the Ombudsman stopping her from “releasing the investigative report of the irregular recruitment matter to the public”.

“Kindly advise us on how your esteemed office intends to settle this matter [and] kindly take notice that unless we receive plausible response within 7 calendar days from the date hereof, we shall be left with no option but commence legal action against yourselves without further notice.”

For MACRA, sent on August 23, the FND alleges the regulator is shielding state-funded MBC on its compliance to payment of license fees after the body revoked licenses for Ufulu FM, Ufulu Television, Galaxy FM, Rainbow Television and Angaliba TV and radio, among others, for failure to service their license fees.

The FND contends that it suspects that could as well be culpable, but was merely spared because it is being used as a government broadcaster and if not MACRA should provide evidence to prove that MBC paid its annual license fees.

“In view of the matter aforesaid; and considering that the licenses being revoked are of private institutions; it may easily be construed that MACRA is being used by the government to silence critical voices,” says the letter from the lawyers.

MACRA is thus ordered to furnish the public “all documents being proof of payment of MBC TV, as well as Radio 1 and 2 towards annual licence fees to the Malawi government — while at the breath saying unless a plausible response is received within 14 days from August 23, the lawyers “shall be left with no option but commence legal action against yourselves without further notice”.

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