Blantyre City Council (BCC) has denied permission to United Transformation Movement (UTM) to hold a public rally at Nyambadwe Primary School ground in Ndirande which was planned for Saturday.
The movement—which is led by the country’s Vice-President Saulos Chilima who broke ranks with the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and declared he will challenge President Peter Mutharika in the presidential race in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections— was scheduled to hold the rally in the squatter township of Ndirande to continue its mobilisation ahead of the election.
BCC Director of administration Lytton Nkata on behalf of chief executive officer Alfred Chanza, could not grant the UTM a go ahead for the rally because it has learnt that the Registrar of Political Parties’ has rejected of its application to register as a party.
“We regret to inform you that permission is hereby not granted for the United Transformation Movement (UTM) to hold the rally on the ground that it has come to the Council’s knowledge that you are not registered asa apolitical party,” reads the letter from BCC to UTM’s national chairman Noel Masangwi.
“As you are aware, Section 17 (2) of the Political Parties (Registration and Regulations) Act prohibits any political party or any combination that is not registered from electioneering or authorising any person to act on its behalf in connection with an election in which political parties contest,” reads the letter in part.
But observers said the decision to stop the rally could be infringing on Article 38 of the Malawi Constitution which is the supreme law of the land, which talks of freedom of assembly.
Deputy Registrar of Political Parties Chikumbutso Namelo said in a letter dated September 21 2018 addressed to Ritz Attorneys, the law firm representing UTM, warned the movement that electioneering when it is not registered is an offence under the Political Parties Act. The offence is liable to a fine of K2 000.
Electioneering, according to the Section 17 of the Political Parties Act, is not allowed unless a political party or “combination of persons” is registered.
BCC letter signed by Nkata said they have “evidence” which show that UTM has been holding similar rallies in the recebt past which were electioneering and it is likely that the intention of holding a rally at Nyambadwe groun is to continue electioneering while the UTM remains unregistered thereby knowingly committing an offence.
UTM spokesperson Joseph Chidanti Malunga said they will seek court relief.
He said UTM is determined to go ahead and hold rallies across the country .
This is not the first time that a new political party challenging the status quo of a governing party has been in trouble with the Registrar of Political Parties.
In 2003, three men Chikumbutso Mtumodzi, Thom Chiumia and Ken Ndanga thwarted attempts by Brown Mpinganjira to register his National Democratic Alliance (NDA) when they registered a political party in the same name then later changed it to New Dawn for Africa maintaining same acrynom NDA after the High Court battle.
In 2011, People’s Party (PP) started by the country’s then Vice-President Joyce Banda also had trouble registering the party when the Registrar of Political Parties rejected the application on the grounds that the abbreviation was too similar to that of People’s Progressive Movement (PPM) and Maravi People’s Party (MPP)
Meanwhile, UTM interim secretary general Patricia Kaliati said in the movement would respect the registrar’s decision and respond within the given 21 days.
She said the party would proceed with the convention slated for November 9 2018.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :