- Loses ‘Blue Night’ case, told to refund K13.5m
- No party should get money from public bodies—Judge
It never rains but it pours for former governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as the High Court of Malawi has ordered it to refund K13.5 million ‘donated’ by State entities during its 2017 fundraising event.
Delivering its judgement yesterday, the court sitting in Zomba further restrained Malawi’s political parties from sourcing or receiving donations from public institutions.
Presiding Judge Zione Ntaba ordered DPP to provide information on all public institutions that gave it money during the Blue Night event at Kamuzu Palace on July 28 2017.
She said: “A mandatory order compelling the respondent [DPP] to furnish the names of all public institutions that funded or made donations towards Blue Night which was held and organised on or about July 28th 2017 is granted.
“Such disclosed information is necessary for the enjoyment of their rights [CSOs] under Section 37 of the Constitution because where public institutions are financing political parties, the information concerning these donations or contributions or pledges fall under the limits of this provision and should be publicly accessed.”
Further, the judge said Section 12 of the Constitution places fiduciary duty on public officers in charge of public funds to manage such resources on behalf of the public and on trust.
Ntaba said: “The law did not allow the city council or water board to expend the money in the manner which they did, as such, the same was unlawful and, therefore, a mandatory order compelling its return is an appropriate remedy.
“Accordingly, a mandatory order or injunction compelling the respondent to refund all the public funds they received on the said Blue Night within a reasonable time, but specific time, is hereby granted.
“The court recognises that the money was already spent; however, it orders that the said money be refunded within 30 days of this order.”
DPP allegedly received about K13.5 million from public institutions, including Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu city councils and Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) during the event where former president Peter Mutharika was the guest of honour.
However, some civil society organisations (CSOs) took the party to court arguing that the conduct amounted to abuse of public resources.
Ntaba yesterday said disclosure of information on political funding helps to reduce criminality created Malawians.
“Those institutions have no duty to fund political parties. In fact, the court should also have ordered that controlling officers for those institutions should be held liable, but since they were not party to the case, they cannot be held liable.
MLS president Patrick Mpaka said the judgement was a useful build up and contribution to constitutionalism.
He said: “The court’s emphasis on the public trust notions and the values of transparency and accountability entrenched in Section 12 of the Constitution is a perfect and timely clarification of a profound issue that should constantly inform the political culture of the country going forward as regards political party funding.
“We hope that the standards and guidelines underscored by the judgement will be followed as the country looks forward to and beyond 2025.”
DPP, through their lawyer Chimwemwe Sikwese, said it was yet to study the ruling.
In 2020, the parastatals that pledged or donated money to the party withdrew from the case having signed consent orders, leaving DPP as a lone respondent.
Since losing the court-sanctioned fresh presidential election on June 23 2020, DPP and some of its leaders have faced a tough time in courts on various cases, including some on governance and accountability shortfalls.