Malawi government’s pay cheque meant for High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal Judges’ fuel for their official vehicles, as stipulated in their contracts, has been ‘referred back to the drawer’ because there’s no sufficient money the state coffers, Nyasa Times has learnt.
This development has angered the judiciary and comes hot on heels as President Peter Mutharika left the country amid public outcry on the financial hardship, with an obscenely bloated entourage to the 70th session of the 2015 UN Assembly.
President Mutharika has travelled to New York, USA with over 100 people, at a critical time when the impoverished southern African country is seafaring through difficult economic times and the Malawian delegation to the UN General Assembly is believed to be one of the largest delegations at this year’s UN General Congregation.
Judiciary officials told Nyasa Times the judges at High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal are “frustrated” because the Mutharika administration is treating them (judges) like beggars.
“To be honest with you, the judges are fed up with how the government is treating them. Their contracts and remuneration packages are clear on the matter and yet the government seems to be playing hide and seek. How on earth would a functioning government issue a cheque to someone and yet they know that there is not enough money in the account?” asked one judicial officer (name shielded).
“Isn’t it ironical that the government has no money in its coffers for the judges’ travel and yet it has the money to take over 100 people to New York for a UN Assembly? What are all these people going to do there?
Another official said the judges feel disrespected and suspects that this is a ploy to frustrate the members of the High Court and Supreme Court Bench for their quest for justice quality delivery.
“How do they expect the judges to be commuting from point A to point B without fuel in their official vehicles when duty calls? This is a deliberate move to cripple delivery of justice in the country. It is worrying and very disturbing that a country being led by a law professor seems bent on frustrating the judiciary, another important arm of the government,” observed the official.
Asked by Nyasa Times to comment, outspoken renowned Blantyre based private practice lawyer and political and social justice activist John-Gift Mwakhwawa said in order for quality justice delivery to prevail in the country, the executive arm of government must at all times ensure that it provides a conducive environment for the judicial officials to be able to execute their duties successfully.
“The court can sit anywhere at any given time and therefore if the judicial officers have no means of mobility how will they operate? It looks like in this country our priorities are put outside down. We pride ourselves in mediocrity,” he said.
The vocal lawyer and former Law Society president explained that governance of impunity upon impunity is fed by a selfish appetite for power and wealth without regard for national welfare and its children’s inheritance.
Said Mwakhwawa: “This is painful. A very painful arrogance. After all, the poor look forward to the government, and they will be given their ‘maize’ whilst elite remains aloof in a perceived comfort of hand to mouth work and enterprise.”
Asked to comment on the bloated delegation to the UN assembly when the government is among other things failing to pay for the judges’ fuel, Mwakhwawa exploded. “All, this is a deliberate insult and shot at the judiciary aimed at undermining the very constitution which hold power for.
“It should be taken as a ploy to show the judiciary who holds the money and undermine the very independence of our judicial officers luring them into desperate beggars for favour in return for favour.”
Mwakhwawa said the executive want to cripple the judiciary so that in the end they should turn around and accuse the judges of not doing enough in the administration of justice.
But Mutharika’s move to arrogantly have a bloated delegation contradicts the very commitment that the Malawi leader and his stooges preach that the ruling DPP strives to adhere to strict fiscal discipline.
Posting on social media utility, Facebook, a Malawian US based social and political commentator, Lucky Tonny Banda said: “If it is true that President Peter Mutharika has brought an entourage of over a 100 people at the UN General Assembly in New York, then he is losing bearing and plot. Disappointing is an understatement. Malawi is currently going through some serious problems and it is expected of the leadership to make better decisions.”
Banda lamented that at the present rate and direction, Malawi is going, things will never change.
“Over and above everything else, Malawians lack patriotism. We do not love our country enough to commit,” added Banda.
A return ticket to New York roughly costs K1.3 million and this means that for the 111 member delegation that has travelled to the 70th UN General Assembly, the Malawi government will have coughed at least is blowing K144 million on air travel alone and a further MK20 million per day on accommodation.
The government will have to cough a little more taxpayers’ money as senior officials of the delegation are booked in much expensive hotels which may push the bills even higher.
Arguably, the Malawian poor taxpayer is also footing hefty allowances for officials on the trip for all the two to three weeks they are expected to outside the country.
Malawians, especially in the civil service have an insatiable appetite for huge allowances when they travel outside the country and most cases a foreign trip is regarded as a self-enriching activity.
The Mutharika administration is already under heavy criticism for the bloated entourage as Malawi is facing serious social-economic problems and expected, accompanying president Mutharika and his wife to New York, are party loyalists, sympathizers and traditional leaders, a development that has kept irking and irritating Malawians for a very long time but it seems the more things change, they more they remain the same.
Dorothy Ngoma, head the National Nurses Organisation of Malawi says: “This is insensitive and extravagant. The money being spent on such a large delegation could have been used for other useful things in the country.”
To add salt to the wound, the Malawi government has withdrawn the deployment of newly trained Doctors, nurses and midwives from the hospitals due to Malawi kwacha’s instability.
“It doesn’t make sense at all taking so many people who will not be useful for the country to the US for the UN Assembly at the expense of the taxpayers who do not have an access to good health facilities, quality judicial service delivery, and good quality education.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :