The High Court in Blantyre on Monday reserved for a later date, ruling on a request by the Registrar of Political Parties to discharge permission for judicial review sought by the Malawi Law Society (MLS) in a political party funding case.
In May this year, MLS dragged the registrar, Chikumbutso Namelo to court after he failed to provide records of political party funding in line with the Political Parties Act of 2018.
However, in his argument in court, the Registrar of Political Parties through Chief State Advocate Neverson Chisiza asked the court to discharge the permission for judicial review with costs saying MLS did not pay K20 000 to access the information as required by law.
“The claimant made an incompetent request as the political parties Act is very clear that anyone seeking information should make payment, provide a general receipt then make a proper application for the information,” said Chisiza.
But MLS through its president Patrick Mpaka insisted that it is an anomaly for a public office to demand payment for it to release public information.
He said the society was requesting for the information on behalf of the public.
Said Mpaka: “Sec 36 of the Political Parties Act does not require anyone to pay to access information which is in custody of the registrar of political parties.”
After hearing submissions from both parties, Justice Mike Tembo adjourned the case to a later date.
He ordered both parties to provide written submissions of what was presented in court.
In July and September 2021, MLS asked the Registrar for the list of political party financiers amid fears that parties have been captured by businesspersons who look to benefit once they go into power.
However, the registrar failed to provide the information to the law society prompting the latter to request the High Court to be allowed to apply for a judicial review of the decision.
The High Court on May 19 2022 granted the Law Society permission to apply for the judicial review.
The four parties mentioned in the MLS letter are Malawi Congress Party, UTM Party, Democratic Progressive Party and United Democratic Front.
Section 27 (2) of the Political Parties Act allows political parties to solicit support from well-wishers, whether individuals or organisations to finance their activities.
However, the act compels political parties to disclose to the Registrar of Political Parties sources of their funding and any donations.