Mzuzu Civil Society Network (MCISON) has backed a long held demand by lawyers and the populace in the northern region in imploring the government to send at least two more Judges at the Mzuzu High Court registry, saying government’s inactiveness on the issue was a grossly violation of human rights.
MCISON, which is a network of over 40 institutions drawn from Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Community Based Organisations (CBOs), and Faith Based Organisations (FBOs) operating in and around Mzuzu City and Mzimba north, has given government up to March 2016 to act.
No specific action was revealed by MCISON that it will take should government close its ears except that MCISON officials during a press conference at Mzuzu hotel on Thursday vehemently reminded government of its obligations both under national and international conventions and treaties regarding human Rights.
Ironically, a 21 day demand by Lawyers from the northern region to Chief Justice issued in April 2015, passed silently with little or no response from the CJ’s office.
“We learn with deep shock that Mzuzu High court has only one resident Judge, a situation that continues to compromise delivery of justice. Surprisingly, all the High Courts in Malawi, except Mzuzu High Court, have more than one Resident Judge. For instance, Zomba High Court has 2 Resident Judges, Blantyre High court has 10 resident judges and Lilongwe High Court has 7 resident judges,” the group said in a statement.
Last year Malawi Law Society Mzuzu Chapter President Victor Gondwe said the presence of one judge is a serious issue to justice delivery.
“ Whenever the same and only Judge is outside the Northern region but a need for an urgent relief arises, say an interlocutory injunction, the whole northern region is handicapped and incapable of obtaining the said relief for the duration the judge is away hence defeating the very objective of ensuring access to justice,” Gondwe said.
Similarly,MCISON noted that due to an enormous workload for the resident Judge at Mzuzu High Court, there is high probability that avoidable errors could occur in the course of making judgment such that when an appeal is sought the Supreme Court could reverse the earlier ruling.
“This does not mean that Resident Judge [Dingiswayo Madise] is incompetent…but the pressure of work would contribute to the arising of such errors. When such error occur the reputation of the Judge and the court becomes questionable,” they said.
Some members of the Mzuzu Civil Society Network include:Youth and Society (YAS), CCJP –Mzuzu,Malawi Law Society (MLS) – Mzuzu Chapter, Youth Watch Society, Women Forum Northern Region, ADRA –Mzuzu, Centre for Legal Assistance (CLELA), Initiative for Policy Research on Social Economic Empowerment (IPSE) and Mzuzu Youth Association (MYA).