The Registrar of Political Parties is facing a race against time to furnish the Malawi Law Society (MLS) with information on sponsors of four political parties during the court-sanctioned 2020 fresh presidential election.
The situation follows a judicial review case MLS commenced in the High Court of Malawi for hearing of substantive issues, but lawyers representing the registrar asked for time to show the lawyers’ body progress made on the issue.
Presiding High Court of Malawi Judge Mike Tembo gave the registrar 21 days to provide the details which MLS honorary secretary Gabriel Chembezi said had not happened.
In an interview yesterday, he said the deadline was on Tuesday if seven days are counted alongside weekends.
However, if weekend and public holidays are taken out, the deadline will be on April 26.
He said: “The case was going for substantive judicial review hearing, but on that date the registrar cited administrative issues. You know there is no Registrar of Political Parties, he is the Registrar General and doubles the roles. So, he requested 21 days to sort out the issues.
“The Registrar of Political Parties said they would see if they can manage to furnish MLS with information on political party sponsors. So, the court granted that. If they had managed to provide the information within 21 days, we would just go back to the court to inform it that we have been given the information and the case ends there.”
In case of failure to provide that information, Chembezi said the court will proceed to hear the judicial review application and substantive issues and come up with a determination.
Registrar General Chikumbutso Namelo said the Attorney General’s (AG) Chambers were better placed to shed more light on the matter.
He said: “As I understand, the adjournment was to allow for the parties to resolve the matters out of court and draw a consent agreement.
“That is something for the lawyers for the parties, that is, MLS and the Registrar of Political Parties.”
AG Thabo Chakaka-Nyirenda said he first needed to follow up with the lawyer who is handling the case.
“I am not handling the case personally. I need to follow it up. So, for dates, legally, after seven days, the numbers are counted together with weekends and holidays,” he said.
In July and September 2021, MLS asked the registrar for the list of political party financiers amid fears that parties were captured by businesspersons who look to benefit once the parties are in power.
But the Registrar of Political Parties did not provide the information, prompting MLS to apply to the High Court 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.
In October 2022, the High Court dismissed an application by the Registrar of Political Parties to discharge permission for judicial review sought by MLS because the Law Society did not pay K20 000 to access the information as required by law..
Tembo said the legality of the requirement of payment of fees to access information called for further investigation at a full hearing of 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.
The Act compels political parties to disclose to the Registrar of Political Parties sources of their funding and any donations.