A local socio-political commentator has described President Peter Mutharika’s failure to comply with the High Court’s decision to suspend maize-gate suspect Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda as an act of hypocricy and contradictory to his earlier appeal to the Judiciary to assist his government in fighting corruption.
Speaking at Kamuzu Palace on 6th January 2017 during the swearing-in of Chief Secretary Lloyd Muhara, High Court Judge Nyakwawa Usiwausiwa, the Minister of Information, Communications and Technology Nicholaus Dausi, and Commissioners of Inquiry into maize-gate, Mutharika appealed to the judges to cooperate with his government in the fight against corruption instead of acting as an obstacle to the same through the granting of retrogressive injunctions to stop government from investigating corrupt officers.
“Judges must also help us in the fight against corruption. As a nation we are sometimes concerned with the way we use our right to injunctions in this country. Some injunctions only take this country backwards. I have seen injunctions being granted to stop us from investigating officers who are alleged to have misused public funds. This is destroying our institutions. These injunctions seem to be given automatically. My word is: justice must have the face of patriotism, just as it must have a human face” said Mutharika at that function/
However, reacting to Presisent’s move through Attorney General to challenge the Mzuzu High Court’s decision suspending Chaponda from executing his ministerial duties, a Lilongwe based socio-political commentator Makhumbo Munthali said Mutharika’s stance was contradictory to the statements he had made earlier about the need for the Judiciary to support government in the fight against corruption
“It must be stated from the very onset that Mutharika, just like any Malawian, has the right to challenge a court’s decision by applying for a vacation of the injunction in circumstances where he is not satisfied with the decision. That’s his constitutional right. However, what is weird is when you consider such a stance in the context of Mutharika’s earlier appeal he had made to the judiciary to avoid granting injunctions that would deter government from investigating the alleged public officers who have misused public funds.
“ The High Court’s ruling in Mzuzu, irrespective of a divided public opinion or response to the rulling, may have essentially been an indirect reminder to Mutharika on what he was and is supposed to do- by suspending maize-gate suspect Chaponda to pave the way for the constituted Commission of Inquiry to thoroughly and impartially investigate the matter. In this case, by granting the injunction to the CSOs to stop Chaponda from working as a Minister pending investigations the Court was in principle positively responding to Mutharika’s call for judges to grant injunctions ‘responsibly’- injunctions that would have the face of patriotism and a human face rather than those aimed at frustrating government’s fight against corruption.
“ It is in this regard that the President’s move to challenge the Court’s decision which exhibits not only patriotism but also supports and strengthens his government’s fight against corruption is surprising, an act of hypocricy and contradictory to his earlier words,” Munkhambo, who is also the National Secretary of the Ethics, Peace and Justice Commission (EPJC) of Evangelical Association of Malawi, told Nyasa Times.
He further argued: “ Contrary to his earlier accusations against judges as hell-bent at frustrating his government’s bid to eradicate corruption, it is now clear that President Mutharika himself is now acting as stumbling block to his own government’s fight against corruption by shield an alleged suspect of maize-gate”.
Munthali added it was sad that Mutharika had to wait until the issue reached the legal path arguing all this would have been prevented if Mutharika had listened to the voice of reason.
“Mutharika and his lieutenants may argue that the Court erred by overstretching its mandate to step on the toes of the President’s prerogative to appoint, suspend and fire a Cabinet Minister. However, Whether the Court may have erred or not, the bottom line remains President was in the first place obliged to act on Chaponda- by suspending him pending investigations- the very day he constituted the Commission of Inquiry or way before when he was implicated in the saga.
“It is therefore in this spirit that I would like to concur with Church and Society Programme of CCAP Livingstonia Synod’s Moses Mkandawire that Mutharika’s current plans to challenge the court’s decision would politically be construed as a challenge to Malawians who voted him to power because they know that probing somebody while still in office cannot yield tangible results. It is high time Mutharika took heed of the reminder by the Court and CSOs to do what he is supposed to do –that is suspending Chaponda- if he is to be taken seriously as a champion of the fight against corruption” argued Munthali
Menawhile, the High Court in Mzuzu has sustained an injunction on the suspension of Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Chaponda.
Judge John Chirwa has since set January 31st for ruling on whether to vacate an ex-parte injunction a private individual and three civil society organisations obtained last Thursday asking to Court to suspend Chaponda to pave way for smooth investigations on the maizegate scandal.
The CSOs that were led by private individual Charles Kajoloweka – are Mzuzu based Youth and Society and Church and Society Programme and the Lilongwe based Center for Development of People.
The maizegate scandal is a suspected corruption element where Agricultural Development and Marketing Cooperation (ADMARC) reportedly bought maize at K26 billion from the Zambian company and it is believed that Malawi could have saved about K9.5 billion if it had bought the grain directly from the Zambian government. –
On Tuesday, the Court seating in chambers, heard a motion on the application by the Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale on the government’s application to vacate the injunction.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :