Court stops commission on academic freedom probe

The High Court in Lilongwe has stopped the presidential  Commission of Inquiry on academic freedom standoff from acting any further in this matter “in any manner whatsoever.”

The court ordered on Monday that the Commission’s work be stopped “pending the determination of the judicial review or further order of the court.”

This follows the application by Chancellor College Academic Staff Union (Ccasu).

Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika appointed the commission to resolve the Chancellor College (Chanco) academic freedom turmoil which started in January, when political science lecturer Dr Blessings Chinsinga was summoned by Inspector General of Police Peter Mukhito.

A lecturer hold academic freedom flag

The lecturer interrogated over a discussion he led in class where parallels were drawn between Malawi’s fuel crisis and popular uprisings in North Africa.

Announcing the commission, Mutharika said its role was “to inquire into the root causes of the disputes” and come up with a lasting solution.

Lawyer for the Chancellor College academic union, Bright Theu confirmed about  the  court order  and disclosed that it has been served on Attorney General.

Chancellor College’s associate professor of law Garton Kamchedzera recently argued that it  is only the Constitutional Court  that can interpret and define academic freedom and not a commission of inquiry.

“Academic freedom is provided for in the Constitution and the law is very clear on interpretation of constitutional provisions. It is supposed to be the Constitutional Court that should give an interpretation on that issue and not a group of people appointed by a member of the Executive,”  Kamchedzera told The Nation newspaper.

CCSU acting president Dr Jessie Kabwila-Kapasula  who had earlier accused the commission  of lacking credibility, said she was “celebrating” about the court order .

The commission is chaired by University of Malawi former Vice-chancellor Professor Brown Chimphamba and includes Professor Moira Chimombo, a lawyer Krishna Savjan, Catholic Bishop Emeritus Felix Mkhori and former civil servant Beaton Munthali. Chief Legal Advocate Bruno Kalemba is the secretary.

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