Assani says Malawi lawyers have own cashgate scandals

Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Fahad Assani, has advised the country’s lawyers against rushing to condemn civil servants as thieves when they are also involved in their own cashgate brand.

The minister gave the advice Friday in his keynote address, in view of the Capital Hill looting, during the Malawi Law Society (MLS) 2014 conference and Annual General Meeting (AGM) held in Mangochi.

Assani used the opportunity to voice his concern about what he described as a different kind of cashgate which he alleged had invaded the Malawi Law Society.

Assani: Lawyers have also own brand of cashgate
Assani: Lawyers have also own brand of cashgate

He claimed that some lawyers had been embezzling client’s funds such that it was rather ironic for the society to be in the forefront condemning public servants as thieves when it was also contaminated. Apparently, the Secretary General of People’s Party (PP), Paul Maulidi is embroiled in such a scandal of clients swindling and Assani was not clear if he was referring to such cases.

Assani urged the society to put its house in order now that the Report of the Law Commission on the Review of the Legal Education and Legal Practitioners Act was out.

Members of MLS have been very critical on the Joyce Banda’s administration over the manner in which it is handling the cashgate scandal where billions of government was stolen by public servants and businesspersons with close links to the ruling People’s Party (PP).

Just this week, the society issued a statement in support of the demonstrations by the civil society against government in which it said President Banda and her PP were taking Malawians for granted as the regime was ruling by lies and deception.

Commenting further on the report of the Law Commission on the Review of the Legal Education and Legal Practitioners Act, the minister assured the gathering of lawyers that cabinet was going to consider it without delay and that before being taken to the National Assembly for debate, lawyers should discharge their duties professionally.

One of the recommendations in the report is that lawyers who are found guilty of misappropriating client funds will be sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and the minister said it would be a sad day if anyone of the lawyers found himself or herself in such a situation.

“On the issue of accountability in public resource management, we all know that this matter has taken centre stage in Malawi. The so called cashgate scandal has not only revealed massive flaws in a system that we thought was secure but also moral bankruptcy in the very people that you and I entrusted with our resources,” said Assani.

The minister also assured the lawyers that his Ministry was going to pursue the cases currently in court to the conclusion and that “justice shall not be sacrificed for the people of Malawi at the altar of political expediency.”

Several people made their presentations during the three-day gathering such as Justice James Kalaile, SC, (retired) who once served as the chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) during the period 1999 to 2004 and also acted as Malawi’s Chief Justice.

Justice Kalaile called on the lawyers and other stakeholders to conduct a post-mortem of immediately after the May 20 elections so that the loopholes in the legislation and systems are strengthened to ensure the citizens should have confidence in the electoral process.

Former Dean of Faculty of Law at Chancellor College, Prof Garton Kamchedzera also made one fabulous presentation that resulted in Wilkins Mijiga, who represented National Bank of Malawi as one of the sponsors, sending the lawyers into stitches of laughter when he said: “If this is the kind of stuff that you lawyers learn in the school, then I am going back to the Law School.”

Among other things, Kamchedzera observed that currently Malawians are not necessarily interested in having people prosecuted because criminal cases take long to conclude and all they want is their money back.

He opined that instead of using the criminal justice system, the state should also consider using civil law.

Kamchedzera further suggested that the use of the law of contract, tort and trust would deliver results to Malawians as it was less expensive route and among remedies discussed that could be used were knowing receipt, unjust enrichment and tracing.

He also said institutions such as the Reserve Bank of Malawi and commercial banks should also be held accountable for the mismanagement of public funds.

Under the Legal Education and the Legal Practitioners Act, Cap. 3:04 of the Laws of Malawi, The Malawi Laws Society is required to hold its AGM by the 28th of February every year following the end of its calendar year.

This year, the conference was held under the theme “free and fair elections and accountability in public resource management.”

During the AGM, the lawyers also gave fresh mandate to Mandala Mambulasa to head the society as president for another term of one year.

Mambulasa defeated lawyer-cum-musician, Davis Njobvu of Savjani & Co. with 43 votes against 26.

The delegates also put their confidence in Powell Nkhutabasa who was elected vice president after flooring Felister Jumbe, a former executive member. Nkhutabasa has replaced Emmanuel Theu, who did not contest.

John Suzi-Banda and Felisah Kilembe retained their positions of treasurer and secretary and MLS official spokesperson respectively unopposed.

Reena Purshotam, Alfred Majamanda and Gilbert Khonyongwa were elected as Executive Committee members.

Some Malawi lawyers
Some Malawi lawyers

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