First female lawyer in Malawi army loses case against General Supuni over unfair treatment

Lieutenant Colonel Chanju Samantha Mwale, who is the first female lawyer in the history of the country’s army, has lost her case which he  applied for leave for judicial review on what she feels is unfair redeployment from her post as Deputy Director of Legal Services to Staff Officer in the Directorate of Research and Development at Malawi Armed Forces College (Mafco).

Now Lieut Colonel: Chanju Mwale chose to be a citizen in uniform over the lucrative legal industry

On April 10 this year, Mwale was told to relocate from Kamuzu Barracks to Area 47 in Lilongwe before being transferred to Mafco on May 31, 2017. She was contesting her appointment by seeking a judicial review on the matter through White and Cross Law Consultants, that it was unreasonable for the Army to redeploy her based on suitability, and the redeployment process itself.

High Court udge Charles Mkandawire granted her leave to apply for judicial review but did not stop the implementation of the decisions by the MDF and General Supuni-Phiri.

Among the reliefs Mwale sought was a declaration that the decision to relocate her from Kamuzu Barracks to Area 47 [Lilongwe], “is illegal, discriminatory, tantamount to harassment and endangerment.

She further said she arrived at the decision to go to court and not lodge a complaint with the Defence Council as per Section 196 of the Defence Force Act because of “the presence of the Commander who sits as Chairman of the Defence Council”.

MDF and Supuni Phiri were the first and second respondents respectively in a Miscellaneous Civil Cause Number 80 of 2017 filed by Mwale at Lilongwe District Registry.

However, the respondents – through their Counsel Major Gilbert Mittawa – made an application to discharge an order of leave through the same court.

The respondent’s application stated that the applicant misled the court by not making full disclosure of all material facts and that she had an alternative remedy as opposed to going to the court.

The respondents argued that her relocation was necessitated by the applicant herself for breaching military conduct and procedure after she was discovered cohabiting with a man without permission from authorities as per requirement.

On her posting to MAFCO, the MDF’s legal representative contended that the applicant joined the MDF as a specialist but on her own volition elected to join the regular service. As such she was amenable to regular service regulations just like any other officer in the regular force.

“In her 13 years of service, the applicant acquired experience and skill which would have helped her in discharging research work.

“Further to that, she had on different occasions worked outside the legal department like in 2011 where she was deployed as a military observer in DRC and she never complained,” reads part of the respondents’ submission.

The MDF said her decision not to lodge a complaint with the Defence Council were not valid as the Council is chaired by the Minister of Defence and its members including Chief Secretary and Secretary for Justice and in any case the Commander does recuse himself if a complaint is against his decision.

The respondents also said the proceedings are moot and a waste of court’s time and resources since the applicant had opted to retire out of her own accord therefore making the proceedings worthless.

In his determination on the matter, Justice Charles Mkandawire observed that according to the provisions of the Defence Force Act, there is a strong and robust internal legal mechanism within the Defence Force where grievances such as the one before the court can be dealt with.

“I am aware that the High court pursuant to Section 108 of the constitution has got unlimited original jurisdiction to entertain any matter that may be brought before it.

“Whilst I do appreciate such generosity from the constitution, it is always the duty of the court to appreciate the legal framework of other institutions,” read part of the ruling.

Justice Mkandawire also said the Minister of Defence, who heads the Defence Council, is more senior and cannot be controlled by the Commander of Defence who is just a mere member in the Defence Council.

In his final ruling on the matter, Justice Mkandawire ordered that the leave for judicial review granted to the applicant be discharged with costs, saying that the matter should have first been referred to the Defence Council.

Chanju, 38-year-old, studied at Kamuzu Academy and then went to Chancellor College to pursue a Bachelor of Laws Degree.

After graduation, she joined the Judiciary as senior resident magistrate and stayed for two years before joining the military in 2004.

Chanju has undergone various courses and trainings, including being deployed to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as a military observer from 2010 till 2011 and taking part in military exercises at SADC level.

In 2014, she was awarded the United Nations (UN) Fellowship in International Law (of the sea) a prestigious fellowship which was sponsored by the Nippon Foundation of Japan.

During a published interview, Chanju said the military is a traditionally male dominated institution and proving oneself worthy is an uphill battle every single day.

“We still have a lot of ground to cover for women to be fully incorporated into the system. Mind sets need more adjustments and this applies to both males and females in the service. Changes can, however, be embraced if they stem from management and policy level to trickle down to ranks.

“All in all, I am proud of myself because I worked hard and sacrificed a lot to be where I am. It can be daunting because of the responsibilities I hold as a woman, lawyer and service member.”

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bidyeti
Guest

ndiwamatama chanju. amafuna timutame kuti amatha law koma bravo Judge Mkandawire for respecting the military. Nkhani za ku military sitikamba pa bwalo – mulowesatu libolonje inu a chanju -mwayesa kosewelera eti? ngati mwakula kakwatiweni. ndiponso iwe umangofunika upange face court marshalllllllllll!!!!! or pa range

Zodwa Wabantu
Guest

Men hate women with a spirit of a man and behaves like a man.
Men hate women who are not submissive to shit and do their own thing.
Women especially floor engineers hate women who are free spirited and doing it for themselves.
Niggas be quick to call a woman a hoe but even quicker to put his d*** in one.

Keen Observer
Guest

Here this bright young lady made a big mistake I don’t know why she decided to take to court the Commander in particular cos this can only bring untold problems to her working relationship with the commander. In military discipline is paramount so this as well I don’t see it being a good idea. Maybe as a lawyer she has got good reasons that made her to make such a decision.

Unenesko Nguwemi
Guest

Co-habitation Vs Military regulations
Co-habitation yayi ku Nkhondo.Samson adafa chifukwa cha Delira.Mwamuna wachibwenzi angatibweretsere chisokonezo.Kwatiwani basi offricially

Kunyinda
Guest

Awa adzakwatiwa ndi ndani poti anatha. Olo ku ujeni kwawo kudakhwepa kale kake kuli ngati liselo. Sakomaso olo awa. Ndangati adawachindapo mulilongwemu… Olo ma TATA onse ku army atha kudzadza mpaka kutayikila NDI OMWE ADAWACHITAPO mpaka ena kuwakwezanso kabaza ena wapasi nseuso kudzadza.. Chanco nde hiiii olo law yawo adatengera ndi bwantete wawoyu mayiwa. Amamugawa zedi janus angaduleso. Btz nde tisanene. Mwina ku salimako akadalipeza poti nkumbali

Mwanamulopwana
Guest
Chanju has a strong and valid argument , I have seen so many officers who have been living in Baracks without getting married yet they are given rights to stay , The issue of Chanju has been done with a selective mind , the fact that she is a woman does not warrant a fact that she should seek permission from authority if she wants to cohabitate with a man. There has been cases in Baracks where by officers in uniform had been dating wives of other officers . so can we say that these officers were getting permission to… Read more »
Kundata
Guest

Vomerezani kuti mayiwa uhule too much. Mwina apumitse kachiwalo anasunga paakati pa miyendo and start using her brain for once

Nkutheka kuti anachimwilidwa koma when you fly cheap no one sees your credibility. Sorry dear wailira army. Walira a Supuni umayesa ma Sudanese ndi ma foreigners ako ena unkapititsa ku barracks aja akuthandiza. Sunkaziwa they could have been spies. Ndiwe opusa sure. But anyways this serves you right

Francis
Guest

Facts are that the wife of the man she was cohabiting with came to the barracks accomodation and caused disturbances at senior married officers quarters. The mdf cannot tolerate such an act. Her posting to mafco is a normal thing for every officer who is a regular officer. May be she never understood that migrating from being a specialist meant that she will handled in the same manner every general duties commissioned officer is handled. The commander has all the powers to post any officer where he sees him or her fit.

Zikwanje
Guest
Cohabiting in the military institional housing is prohibited by the DFA, and singles are allowed and given room for privacy in the officers mess for free until even rank of General, even men can’t cohabiti in the barracks Married quarters, regular MDG soldiers can be transfered to any cantonment by the DFC, and to any job or task because that’s his prerogative according to the DFA, DFC is not absolute authority in Defence Council coz there is the minister and ps in the ministers who are well above the DFC in status and duties, hence court is spot on when… Read more »
Here Ulu
Guest

Women are endangered species in the military.

Kholowa mkabudula
Guest

Koma ntchitozi abale, kuti uchindidwe ukapemphe chilolezo kaye kuti ndapeza mphongo yoti izindichinda? Nde agenelo aloleze kapena ayi hahahahaha

Maliseni
Guest
I never knew that in the Army we have highly trained lawyers that would defend the force with factual information, legally accepted in a court of law. Like any other institution redeployment to other duty station is a petty issue and am not surprised that the court ruled against her with costs. Our defence force must maintain its rules and regulations if we are to be safe as a country. Bravo Major Gilbert Mittawa for your inspiring legal defence. It has a lot of lessons for our law students and High Court Judges when similar matters are brought before their… Read more »
Commandante
Guest

She has never lived without a man in her life. She cannot survive without sex, the is why she was co-habiting. Ali ndi chiwanda cha chigololo Chanju

Commandante
Guest

She has never lived without a man in her life. She cannot survive without sex, the is why she was co-habiting. Ali ndi chiwandavcha chigololo Chanju

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