Lawyers plan to march on Wednesday in defence for judicial independence and rule of law

By Duncan Mlanjira

Lawyers of Malawi have applied to the authorities of the four cities — Blantyre, Lilongwe, Zomba and Mzuzu — of their intention to hold peaceful demonstrations on Wednesday, June 17 “to push President Arthur Peter Mutharika and the Executive arm of the Government to respect the independence of the judiciary and rule of law”.

Copied to the Inspector General of Police as well as police officers in charge and district commissioners in all the four cities, the Lawyers of Malawi grouping quotes Section 96 of the Police Act in request for the right to carry out the hold peaceful demonstrations.

President Mutharika

“This is not only in line with our constitution right but further is our duty to defend the institution which safeguards our existence as a law profession,” says the request.

The parade demonstrations are planned to take place from 12 noon. For Lilongwe it will start from Mbewe down Kamuzu Procession, then turn via Lilongwe Hotel up to the High Court.

Lloyd Muhara, at the centre of it all

Blantyre’s is from Queen Elizabeth Hospital at Ginnery Corner via the Polytechnic up to the Principal Registry and in Zomba from City Centre (DC’s offices) to Zomba High Court and in Mzuzu from Shoprite to the High Court.

“We thank you for your usual support and commitment to upholding human rights as provided for in the Republican Constitution, subsidiary legislations and international instruments that Malawi is party to,” says the statement.

According to one of the organisers, the Lawyers in Malawi is a grouping of legal minds that excludes Malawi Law Society (MLS) executive members in their official capacity.

Justice Nyirenda retires in December, 2021

It includes those who are not MLS members and for this demonstrations law students are invited to attend.

The statement has been signed by Alexious Silombela Kamangila, John Gift Mwakhwawa, Ngeyi Ruth Kanyongolo, Mike Munthali and Khwalala Mchizi.

This plan to demonstrate comes hot on the heels of the local and international condemnation of the action by the Malawi Government to force Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda and Justice of Appeal Edward Twea to go on mandatory leave pending retirement.

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The decision to send the Chief Justice on mandatory leave pending retirement is suspect as it comes hot on the heels of the Supreme Court decision in the elections case, which upheld the ruling of the Constitutional Court that nullified the 2019 presidential election and ordered to have fresh election, now scheduled for June 23.

Meanwhile, the High Court granted an injunction on Sunday ordering Chief Secretary to the Government, Lloyd Muhara from taking further steps to implement the notice he issued on Friday, June 12 ordering the Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda to go on mandatory leave pending his retirement.

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The High Court has since granted permission to commence Judicial Review of this decision by the government done through Muhara.

The Court also asks Muhara to furnish the petitioners copies of all correspondents between his office and the Chief Justice and any other Justice of Appeal regarding leave days and retirement within two days of receiving the order.

The injunction had been sought before the High Court by the State on the application of Human Right Defenders Coalition (HRDC) and Association of Magistrates in Malawi and the first respondent is President Peter Mutharika with Muhara as the second respondent.