FDH boss takes on CSO leaders

Tycoon Thomson Mpinganjira and FDH Bank have obtained an injunction stopping activists Timothy Mtambo and Gift Trapence as well as Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) from dragging the financial institution into politics or alleged electoral fraud.

The court order issued at the High Court of Malawi Blantyre registry yesterday restrains Mtambo as HRDC chairperson, Trapence as vice-chairperson and HRDC from what Mpinganjira and FDH Banks said causing reckless, malicious and defamatory publication about the claimants.

Part of the damage to FDH Bank during demonstrations on Friday

Reads the order in part: “An order is hereby granted restraining the defendants from causing reckless, malicious and defamatory publication of the claimants through a report dated 5th July 2019 presented by the first defendant [Mtambo] to its members that the claimants financed the rigging operations by the Democratic Progressive Party [DPP] for the [May 21] 2019 Tripartite Elections.”

In the matter, Mtambo, Trapence and HRDC are the first, second and third defendants, respectively, in Civil Cause Number 239 0f 2019.

The move from Mpinganjira and FDH Bank follows recent demonstrations organised by HRDC on June 20, July 4 and July 5 nationwide to force Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah to resign for allegedly overseeing a fraudulent electoral process.

In a sworn-affidavit, Mpinganjira, who is group chief executive officer of FDH Financial Holdings Limited-the parent company of FDH Bank-and board chairperson of Electricty Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom), specifically makes reference to a document HRDC presented after the July 4 protests which alleged the involvement of him and his bank in financing the purported rigging plot.

MEC on May 27 declared President Peter Mutharika of DPP as winner of the presidential election in the May 21 Tripartite Elections with 1 940 709 votes or 38.57 percent. Results announced by the electoral body showed that Malawi Congress Party (MCP) candidate Lazarus Chakwera  was second with 1 781 740 votes (35.41 percent) while the country’s immediate past vice-president Saulos Chilima who led UTM Party came third with 1 018 369 votes or 20.24 percent.

Both Chilima and Chakwera have filed a petition asking the Constitutional Court to nullify presidential election results over alleged irregularities.

In his affidavit, Mpinganjira observed that HRDC has mounted a campaign against FDH Bank since publication of an article about a MEC bank account held with the bank.

Prior to the July 5 demonstrations, FDH Bank lawyers, Mbendera & Nkhono Associates wrote HRDC pleading with them not to target the business interests of Mpinganjira and FDH Bank.

HRDC responded to the letter by reminding Malawians that the protests were to be peaceful and not meant to target businesses, individuals and organisations.

But Mpinganjira said that despite the assurance and earlier plea, protesters in Blantyre broke glasses at FDH Bank Umoyo House Branch.

He said the protesters were overheard chanting songs denigrating him and FDH Bank for the alleged financing of the purported DPP rigging scheme.

Mpinganjra dismisses allegations against him and FDH Bank as lies made with malice and caprice as well as cheap propaganda of political machinations.

In an interview yesterday, Wesley Mwafulirwa, a lawyer representing HRDC, confirmed receipt of the court Order, but said his clients deny all the accusations levelled against them.

He said: “We have received the documents and we are preparing our defence. We will respond accordingly.”

During the protests, some government office buildings were torched while some individuals and businesses had their property looted, especially in Lilongwe, Mzuzu, Karonga and Rumphi.

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