Magistrate Mvula files contempt of court proceedings against Malawi Judiciary

The Judiciary in Malawi risks being turned into a clown court after it ignored a court ruling ordering it to reinstate and pay all arrears owed to Blantyre principal resident magistrateMzondi Mvula, who was acquitted by the High Court in May last year on corruption charges..

The Anti-Corruption Bureau arrested Mvula in June 2011 accusing him of abuse of office and that he solicited a K5 million (about $15 000 at current exchange rates) bribe from a businessperson, Ramesh Patel.

He was arrested alongside Blantyre businessmen Kondi Msungama and Rashid Gaffar who allegedly wanted Mvula to intervene in a case involving Patel.

Mvula was acquitted in May 2012 by High Court Judge Geoffrey Mwase after the ACB failed to prove their case and he subsequently dragged government to court, demanding that he be reinstated.

Magistrate Mzondi Mvula: Sues

Making his ruling on December 2012, Deputy Chairperson of the Industrial Relations Court Jack N’riva ordered the Judicial Service Commission as the first respondent and the Attorney General as the second respondent to reinstate Mvula and his remuneration paid in arrears within 21 days.

However, after the 21 days which ended on Christmas Day, the Judiciary had not complied with the court order, forcing Mvula to drag the Judiciary and the Attorney General to court for Contempt of Court.

Filing the case at the High Court in Blantyre on Friday, Mvula’s lawyer Lusungu Gondwe explained that they he has lodged a Contempt of Court proceedings against the Chief Justice as Chairperson of the Judiciary Service Commission, the Attorney General or chief counsel for government and the Register of the Supreme Court of Appeal and High Court as the controlling officer.

“The contempt case if based on the decision entered on 4th December, 2012 by the Industrial Relations Court to pay all withheld wages for my client and place him on payroll until a further order of the court. But the Judiciary did not comply with this order after the 21 days, hence our action,” he said.

There have been reports that the Judiciary Service Commission is planning on appealing the Industrial Relations Court ruling but Gondwe noted that this would not stop the process from going ahead.

“An appeal is no stay of process. It therefore can’t stop the reinstatement let alone payment of salary and withheld dues,” he said.

Reacting to the development, a Blantyre-based renowned lawyer who opted for anonymity noted that both the Judiciary Service Commission and Attorney General, as heads of the legal arm of government, have set a bad precedent by ignoring the court order.

“If the people that are supposed to uphold the law and protect is from abuse are paying no regard to court rulings, then how do we expect ordinary citizens to obey the law. This is a mockery of the judicial system. It is embarrassing for the Judiciary and the Attorney General to be in contempt of court,” he said.

The senior lawyer when it comes to law said  the Chief Justice and Attorney General will be treated as ordinary citizens.

“It is only a sitting president that is immune to prosecution but everyone else is equal before the law. So these two will be treated like everyone else. But usually fines are imposed for contempt of court cases, rarely to courts order arrests,” he said.

However, the lawyer said he believed Mvula is being victimised by some people within the Judiciary.

“Judge Joseph Manyungwa has been arrested twice  – on corruption charges – yet he is working and getting his salary. This is not fair,” the lawyer said.

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