By Mandy Pondani:
Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) Wednesday failed to file defence to the High Court in Blantyre on an application to challenge an injunction which FDH Bank boss Thom Mpinganjira obtained on Tuesday against the body and its leaders, Timothy Mtambo and Gift Trapence.
HRDC lawyer Wesley Mwafulirwa confirmed the development attributing it to the arrest of Trapence, who is the second defendant in the matter.
Fiscal police arrested Trapence and another human rights activist MacDonald Sembereka in Lilongwe on alleged plunder of donor resources following a complaint from UNAids.
However, the international non-governmental organisation has not corroborated the charges which the police have levelled on the activists.
“We have failed to compile and file affidavits because one of my clients is incarcerated. I have to hear from him also and get clear instructions, but that has not been possible because he is in custody,” Mwafulirwa said.
He, however, confirmed to have worked on the notice of appointment, a document which notifies a court about a party’s choice of legal practitioners in a matter.
In a brief telephone interview, Trapence described his arrest as witch-hunting and accused President Peter Mutharika of perpetrating persecution of his critics.
“This is pure victimisation; the ruling machinery is bent on gagging all dissenting voices. This arrest is a deliberate calculation because they were aware of the injunction which they know we are to challenge,” he said.
The injunction, which Mpinganjira was granted through his lawyer Chancy Gondwe, restrains HRDC and its leadership from dragging him and his bank into any matters related to the May 21 Tripartite Elections.
He alleges that his business has been a target of the coalition despite him dismissing the allegation that he allegedly financed and aided election rigging operations of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) through the bank.
Through the court order, Mpinganjira stops Mtambo, Trapence and HRDC from publishing his name and that of his business in any of their undertakings claiming doing so is cause for reckless and malicious damage.
Trapence and Mtambo were main organisers of the June 20 and July 4 2019 anti-Jane Ansah demonstrations aimed at forcing the Malawi Electoral Commission Chairperson to step down on allegation that she failed to deliver free, fair and credible elections.
Mpinganjira and FDH continue to be in the public spotlight following revelations that the latter holds a Mec’s Chief Elections Officer account to which Treasury wired K4 billion on the eve of the polls thereby raising public suspicion.
Mec says Treasury authorised the opening of such an account in that name.