The judges of the High Court of Malawi, who heard the landmark May 21 2019 presidential election nullification case, have won the prestigious 2020 Chatham House prize.
The judges earned international recognition after United Kingdom-based Chatham House—a world centre for research and analysis for international affairs— shortlisted them because their bravery demonstrated in protecting the constitutional process during the presidential election case.
Through a October 23 2020 letter addressed to Judge Healey Potani, who chaired the five-judge panel that sat as the Constitutional Court (ConCourt), United Kingdom-based Chatham House director Robin Niblett said the judges have won the prize.
Reads the letter in part: “I am delighted to inform you that your nomination for the 2020 Chatham House Prize has been voted for as the winner of this year’s award.”
In the letter, Niblett indicated that Chatham House will arrange a presentation ceremony for the award in Lilongwe in the near future and at its London Conference next June.
Organisers of the award said the selection process of the winner takes place in three stages where it initially draws on the input of senior research teams and then recommendations are presented to its co-presidents who produce the shortlist of nominees before voting is done by the full Chatham House membership.
Potani—who heard the case alongside judges Ivy Kamanga, Mike Tembo, Redson Kapindu and Dingiswayo Madise— has confirmed being informed of the international recognition.
He said the judges will issue a statement of acceptance through the registrar of the High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal Agnes Patemba.
Sunduzwayo Madise, dean of the Faculty of Law at Chancellor College—a constituent college of the University of Malawi, described the award of the five judges as a big achievement of the Judiciary and Malawi as a country.
He said the international award “shows Malawi’s levels of maturity in terms of democracy and the rule of law.”
The five judges on February 3 2020 nullified the presidential election case over alleged irregularities, especially in the results management system, as prayed by first petitioner Saulos Chilima of UTM Party and second petitioner Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi Congress Party (MCP). The court declared that then president Peter Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was not duly elected and ordered a fresh election within 150 days.
A seven-judge panel of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal on May 8 upheld the ConCourt judgement.
However, Mutharika, a professor of international law, opined that the Judiciary erred in its judgement. He described the judgement as a “judicial coup” and an attempt to usurp the will of the people who voted for him.
Mutharika subsequently lost in the June 23 fresh presidential election to the pair of Chakwera and Chilima who amassed 59 percent of the vote.
Previous recipients of the award introduced in 2005 include Ukraine President Victor Yuschenko, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, president of Brazil, former Mozambique president Joaquim Chissano and former president of Ghana John Kuffuor.
The international award is presented each year to an institution or states person who is judged by Chatham House members to have made the most significant contribution to the improvement of international relations in the previous year.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :