By our reporter
The High Court in Blantyre has set October 16 2018 as the date to start hearing the appeal by newly formed United Transformation Movement (UTM) against the Registrar of Political Parties’ rejection of its application to register as a party.
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—disagrees with the registrar’s decision to throw out its application on the basis that the grouping flouted the law by seeking to register using its abbreviation UTM instead of the full name ‘United Transformation Movement’.
Deputy Registrar of Political Parties Chikumbutso Namelo alleged that the use of the abbreviation instead of the full name was a deliberate scheme to mislead the registrar because there is another registered political party with a similar sounding name.
The deputy registrar was apparently referring to United Transformation Party (UTP) registered by businessperson Newton Kambala who earlier announced his partnership with UTM at the movement’s rallies but has not committed to deregistering his party.
But Chilima through private practise lawyer Michael Goba Chipeta is arguing that the Registrar made a material error in law and fact in holding that UTM closely resembles UTP.
“It should be pointed out that the Registrar went on a frolic of his own looking for evidence that UTM is an abbreviation of United Transformation Movement.
“From his voyages of discoveries, UTM was not a stand-alone name, but an abbreviation of United Transformation Movement. Paradoxically, the Registrar made his decision barely on examining the party’s application from the accompanying documentation that is all before the court,” said Chilima in his sworn affidavit.
He argues that UTM’s application had application form one which included two duly certified copies of the constitution and manifesto of the party, list of particulars of the leader and office-bearers of the party and list of particular of registered members of the party in excess of 100 members.
Chilima also argues that at no time did the Registrar of political parties invite the office bearers of the UTM to satisfy himself as to whether what he thought was evidence from public knowledge was indeed correct information, saying the name of the party is decided by the party itself and not an outside.
He argues that if the party decided to be known only as UTM and register it that way, there is no law that forbids that exercise.
“Such a move is perfectly legal,” argues Chilima.
Chilima officially launched UTM at Masintha Ground in Lilongwe on July 21 and the movement has since been criss-crossing the country canvassing for support and is expected to hold the national convention slated for November 9 2018.
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.