Malawi government has exercised its own prerogative – to attack High Court judge Kenyatta Nyirenda – who faulted President Peter Mutharika for making a declaration of a national disaster over the coronavirus without citing the law under which the declaration was being made.
Ministry of Justice in a statement issued by its spokesperson Pilirani Masanjala has defended the declaration saying Mutharika used Section 32 of the Disaster Preparedness and Relief Act.
“In making the Declaration, the President complied with section 32 of the Act and as required by that provision, caused the said declaration to be published in the Gazette as Government Notice No. 4 in the Malawi Gazette Supplement of 3rd April, 2020,” said Ministry of Justice spokesperson Pilirani Masanjala in a statement.
Masanjala added that the Disaster Preparedness and Relief Act does not stop the President, as Head of State and Government, from announcing any extraordinary measures as necessary in order to protect persons affected or likely to be affected by the disaster so declared.
One of the legal scholars asked the public to ignore anti-judge venom and give thanks for an independent judiciary upholding the principles of democracy.
In his widely circulating ruling, Justice Nyirenda said: “Honestly, the very thought of declaring a state of disaster without even bothering to tell Malawians in clear terms the law under which the declaration is made is taking Malawians for granted.”
Justice Nyirenda said he is “duty bound” to give the judicial advice having taken judicial oath and oath of allegiance.
He pointed out that as matters now stand, unless the government moves with speed to take necessary legislative measures, the possibility of exposure by the State to pay colossal sum of money in compensation for violating human rights as a result of imposing measures anchored in law is very high.
Justice Nyirenda further pointed out that the legislative regime governing Malawi’s response to disasters, regardless so the nature and the extent of the disasters, is not only archaic and obsolete but “it is also in total shambles.”
He said: “ Almost all, if not all, applicable laws are completely outdated. Needless to say, the coronavirus epidemic has caught the authorities with their pants down – witness panic stations everywhere.
“How the authorities expect to effectively combat the epidemic in 2020 with laws enacted in 1948 (Public Health Act), 1964 (Immigration Act) and 1991 (Disaster Preparedness and Relief Act) boggles my mind.”
Justice Nyirenda said this is not the time to start questioning patriotism of fellow Malawians but to “ collectively pull up our socks so that we can fully apply our minds and energy to the reparation of the necessary legislation.”
President Mutharika declared a state of disaster on March 23 to combat the coronavirus. There is no lockdown but schools are closed and the government says it is urging people to work from home and follow hand-washing and social-distancing guidelines.
All social gatherings of more than 100 people, such as funerals, church services and political rallies, have been banned.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :