Some of Malawi lawyers are a disgrace

Justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.” – Lord Chief Justice Hewart: R v Sussex Justices, ex-parte MacCarthy, 1924

The legal profession has always been held in awe and esteem but somehow it has also universally been tainted with sordid and underhand activities. Perhaps this is due to the flexibility that its members have to choose one of dual capacitieseither as prosecuting or defence attorneys under the noble assumption that everyone is presumed innocent until proven otherwise.This is done in the interest of justice and the right to fair trial.

Malawi lawyers

Malawi lawyers

However, in the process, matters of conscience and ethics are sacrificed in the supposed pursuit of facts, fairness and, invariably, money; after all, a lawyers fame and fortunes are inextricably bound to his reputation in winning cases and not necessarily in just giving good legal advice. (Wouldn’t it be nice to sue a legal practitioner for giving wrong advice?!).

The desire to win cases and make moneyat any cost can motivate unethical,illegal and criminal conductand this is being manifested in Malawi today.In addition, greed – one of the seven deadly sins – seems to have taken root across the board with numerous allegations of wrong-doing amongst our legal minds, both in the Judiciary and amongst private practsing lawyers.

Whilst not wanting to deny anyone their right to work and earn a living, I take the view that all professionals must be guided by a set of acceptable rules and an upright moral code of conduct that preserves the integrity of their profession. Sadly, it would appear that this aspect is lost on the legal fraternity, whose members now regularly seem to be in the limelight for all the wrong reasons.

Unfortunately, the Malawi Law Society, MLS, seems impotent as a self-regulatory institution to discipline its members and maintain its respect and public trust. In fact, the general feeling is that, on the contrary, the body has been so compromised that it is seen to shield and condone the disreputable behavior and dubious antics of its members, hiding behind technicalities of the law and deliberate legalese to blindfold an unsuspecting public to the misdeeds and inappropriate actions of incompetent, dishonest and scandalous lawyers.

What hope do we, as a nation, haveif those who are charged with ensuring fairness and justice become alleged accomplices, perpetrators and instruments of deceit, fraud, corruption and crime? More so, when the celebrated ones amongst the clan are suspected of high-level chicanery and a total lack of ethical behavior? Surely, what this points to is the death ofmoral values at the altar of mammon. And this is compounded by an emergent compromised political elite that has nurtured a culture of impunity and failed to establish the requisite moral high-ground to act as a beacon of hope for us to advance a transparent civilized society based on law and order.

How unfortunate that the miscreant behaviour of some of our laywyers is being exposed when we have our first-everpresident with a legal background, an accomplished and globally respected legal academic!One would expect a harsh tongue-lashing at his brethren in an effort to salvage the dignity and respect that the profession once enjoyed. More so, when a senior lawyer that has just been recently appointed to a high office embarrasses his whole government by getting arrested by the ACB on suspicion of tampering with witnesses in the on-going infamous, highly symbolic “CashGate Trials” that can make or break our immediate future as a nation.

And also, when people are questioning untenable positions by senior government officers who may not be in a position to exercise independence and objectivity as they are, effectively, simultaneously acting as both prosecutorsand defence attorneys in some of the trials. And also, how is a suspect allowed to act as a legal representative for other suspects in related CashGatecases?Intuitively, there is something wrong here and no amount of explanations can convince me, or the general public, otherwise.

Government, NGOs, civil society, the MLS, and perhaps indeed regional and international legal institutions, need to look into these issues if we are serious about the course of this country.Just like in CashGate, there should be no sacred cows in cleaning up the soiled image of the Judiciary and thelegal profession. As an aside, despite the commendable efforts by the current administration to attract investment to Malawi, no sane foreign investor will feel safe to invest in a country where the legal system and its professionals are suspect.

The unraveling stories of decadence amongst our lawyers comes at a fragile time when the Malawian people have virtually lost trust in government and the suspect political class; when the legislative arm of government has proved to be a useless appendage for checking executive abuse of power and failed to ensure greater transparency and accountability on behalf of the people.

Whilstpracticing lawyers may not necessarily be in the Judiciary as the third arm of government, judges are glorified lawyers who have been given the noble responsibility of interpreting the lawand passing judgement, ostensibly without fear or favour. Therefore, if its members and those of the legal fraternity of which they are a part, are embroiled in shady dealings, unsavoury acts and behavior, it only follows that the whole Judiciary itself will be held in suspicion.

And reported media revelations of dubious prosecutorial arguments, judge-shopping, questionable judgements and sentences, abuse of client trust accounts, conflicts of interest and corruption are feeding a frenzy of public speculation as to the honour and integrity of our learned men and women blessed (cursed?) with letters of the law. We are creating fertile ground for a total breakdown of trust in the whole government machinery, which could have disastrous consequences if not timely checked.

Coupled with the lack of closure on the fractious May 2014 elections, a deteriorating economic scenario with a people faced with an ever-escalating cost of living and the apparent polarization of our sadly beautiful nation along regional, tribal and ethnic lines,a lack of trust in the Judiciary and lawyers simply adds salt to the wounds of an injured, angry, suffering people.People are now cynically referring to the Ministry of Injustice and the machinations of the ‘illegal’profession!

Government, together with MLS,would be well-advised to grab the bull by its horns and deal with the cancer that has brought the legal profession into disrepute. Rogue lawyers and a cavalier attitude amongst the legal fraternity have become a big disgrace to this nation!

(Chikavu Nyirenda is a Senior Lecturer in Banking and Finance at The Catholic University of Malawi and contributes, in his own capacity,a weekly Monday column, ‘Views from the Sunset,’published in The Daily Times. This article appeared in this week’s edition on 20 October, 2014).

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Opportunist
Guest

Wow! So I’m not the only one robbed by these thugs who use legal jargon to subdue when confronted. I was robbed of mwk90 pin in 2006 he thinks I’ve forgotten doesn’t know the Hiroshima ill drop on him.

Honesty
Guest
Master, I second you 100%, illiteracy really increases problems in Malawi. Malawian’s just agree to whatever, whether good or bad just in the name of Peace/respect and poverty, hence legal professionals enhances illiteracy, people just agree to whatever the court approves, while from the backdoor these Lawyers drink, eat and womanize together and rise up against one thing or else agree on one thing, sidelining the truth and going for money. As a result only Rich people succeed, and Poor people remain poor because they have no back up. It is Sad to note these Legal professionals play clients(Malawians) like… Read more »
Achimidzimidzi
Guest

Point of correction!!, Nyasatimes how come, just below the picture you have written “Malawi Lawyers”. while the people in the picture are the thiefs in Malawi? That should read “Professional and Systematic thiefs In Malawi”

This is bad Journalism…

Chiefjusticene!!!!
Guest
The Chief Justice herself knows the truth of what people are talking about here. We have a long endless list of crooked lawyers in Malawi and one has just swindled my money few months ago and tried to report to MLS and since this body is toothless as they shared this swindled money with them nothing has been done today. May be let us try ICC otherwise our judicial system has completely failed and this is very shameful to the Chief Justice herself or try to replace a man otherwise this one AZIPITA KU CATHOLIC UKO KU C.I. KUPEMPHERA TOO… Read more »
Timkanenafe
Guest
This article is not even helping Malawians because this body you call yourself MLS is just SHIT and must be abolished here in Malawi. Out of 100% of our lawyers in Malawi 96.4% are THIEVES and this time around they are busy driving posh cars,building palaces out of the money from swindled clients. It is better to hire best lawyers from outside Malawi if one has the money otherwise our lawyers and judges are ALL THIEVES and do not blame their school CHANCO no!!! The problem is with our judicial system because both the lawyer and the judge want to… Read more »
spot on
Guest
the solution is an overhaul of the law program at chanco,i suspect its the one to blame,and make sure only the smart and responsible ones pass exams,like what they do in medical school,make sure your exams are scrutinized by international examiners,stop getting mbuli in that proffesion,give students tough exams and stuff,this will make theyr brains learn responsibility,trust me,or try to compare a 20 year old medical graduat and a 45 year old law graduate,the former is more responsible and wise than the later-reason? the way how these people are taught in school-wake up,if you are not carefull,this country will collapse,thieves… Read more »
CHITIPA AND NTCHISI
Guest

I totally agree with the above coment and at one time the judge told me that goverment has so many ways of frustrating people and even the the law enforcing agency through the attorney general stole my wealth only GOD will judge them.

Redeemed
Guest

Laywers are liers, the bible teaches us not to hold false witness, but these folks make enormous amount of money by doing so. They lack conscience to such an extent of even betraying there own clients whose faith is solely place in them. I dispise this profession so much that if either of my sons will happen to choose to persue a career in law, I will not hesitate to distribute all his educational savings amongs those less fortunate.

Nyandeni
Guest
Thanks Chikavu for coming up with such an eye opening article, although it it like you wrote it in a hurry and it has not been edited. Indeed the behaviour of lawyer these days leaves a lot to be desired. I have respect for the good old lawyers like MacLaws Makwiti, Modicai Msisha, Temwa Nyirenda, Bazooka Mhango and their friends who never behaved like lawyers of this time. It is like “Getting Reach Fast” is part of their curriculum at Chancellor College. They would throw their professional ethics to the dogs in order to get rich. As somebody has said… Read more »
Salima
Guest

MLS is rotten these lawyers are playing with Malawians,Am appealing to Hon Minister of Justice and Madam Msosa to look into this Lawyers Issue very seriously with sober minds so that Malawians should trust them.Atidyera mokwanila in the name seeking for Justice and saying justice is a process.

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