Malawi Law Society explains legal process on Senior Counsel appointment

Malawi Law Society president John Gift Mwakhwawa has explained that President Mrs Joyce Banda recent conferment of the Senior Counsel (SC) status on six lawyers was done according to the law.

Mwakhwawa in a telephone interview with Nyasa Times on Friday explained that President Banda did not make any material error of law as she followed the process.

Malawi’s flagship daily, The Nation quoted deputy spokesperson of the Judiciary Nyakwawa Usiwa Usiwa that appointment of the six by-passed the endorsement of the Chief Justice who chairs the Advisory Committee on the Appointment of Senior Counsels.

The six new SCs include Justice Minister and Attorney General (AG) Ralph Kasambara, who is also director of legal affairs in the ruling People’s Party (PP); Lands Minister Henry Phoya, who is Kasambara’s deputy in the party. The others are Justices Edward Twea and Richard Chinangwa, veteran lawyer Bazuka Mhango and Law Commissioner Gertrude Hiwa.

Makhwawa: JB followed the law

“Our view is that admittedly the President has powers to appoint people to the Senior Counsel status. That power is conferred by the constitution,” Law society president told Nyasa Times.

Makhwawa said the other route would be making the appointment through Advisory Committee on the Appointment of Senior Counsels.

On the criticism of the appointment of Attorney General Ralph Kasambara as SC, Makhwawa said the President can appoint lawyers in their own right, saying Kasambara is “deserving” to qualify for the SC label.

“One must appreciate that apart from certain requirements for office holders, they may also be conferred in their individual capacity,” he said.

“People are not happy on Kasambara, I for one have no doubt the significant role Kasambara has played in the country in the legal profession,” Malawi Law Society head said.

Makhwawa nonetheless said there are many “deserving” lawyers who need to be appointed for SC status.

“We are only saying there is more who are deserving to be appointed. Since these appointments are made annually, we hope those will be recognized,” he said.

Makhwawa also said any appointment made by the President has political connotations but stressed that on the conferment of the SCs “there is no illegality about it.”

When contacted on phone, Kasambara said the assertions that President Banda by-passed the Judiciary to make the appointment is “complete fabrication.”

“It is sending wrong message. It is not a judicial process and judiciary is not supposed to be consulted,” argued Kasambara SC.

He said the matter could bring “unnecessary antagonism between executive and judiciary.”

Kasambara also disclosed that President Banda conferred all judges at Supreme Court the status of Senior Counsel.

He also said he deserved the honour owing to his contribution to the country’s legal system, as an academician; and that he has practiced as a lawyer for more than 20 years, heading two top legal firms in the process and served as Attorney General before.

In the newspaper report, Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs principal secretary Anthony Kamanga, who is also Solicitor General, was quoted saying the Chief Justice was by-passed but defended the move, saying the President has constitutional powers to confer the status of Senior Counsel on his or her choice of a legal practitioner.

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