Malawi Human Rights Commission prominent lawyer resigns in protest

Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) deputy director for legal affairs, Chrispin Sibande, has resigned in protest over ill-treatment by his employers after he was denied an opportunity for interviews as Director of the Department of Legal Affairs.

“I have resigned. I was not treated well, it was very unfair for the Commission not to even accord me a chance for interviews I truly qualified,” Sibande told Nyasa Times.  

“It just shows that my employers don’t appreciate my services. The best I can do is concentrate on other things or indeed find an employer who will appreciate my services, if not why not try my own legal film?” he said.

MHRC boss : Malera

Earlier this year, the MHRC advertised for the vacant position of Director of Legal Affairs after the incumbent, Grace Malera, was promoted as Chief Executive Officer for MHRC.

Insiders say the MHRC denied to even shortlist Sibande for interviews because of his poor performance as deputy director, during which time he headed the department in an acting capacity.

“There is a committee of Commissioners which shortlists people for interviews. At that time, Commissioner Rev Dr Zaki Kawalala headed it. The committee argued that it was a waste of time calling Mr Sibande for interviews when the MHRC would not pick him because of poor performance, poor work ethic, frequent absenteeism and moonlighting,” said a source familiar with the matter.

The position, however, was given to veteran lawyer, academic and politician Charles Mhango who was once President of Malawi Law Society and Dean of Faculty of Law at University of Malawi’s Chancellor College.

Mhango contested in a 2011 by-election in Rumphi Central Constituency which was won by Enoch Chihana, son to pro-democracy hero Chakufwa Chihana.

Sibande holds LL.B (Hons) from Chancellor College and LL.M from University of Free State in South Africa.

Observers say the MHRC has lost a “legal gear-box” and “legal institutional memory” following his exist as he was the only lawyer allowed to litigate in court on behalf of MHRC. The other lawyers don’t have licenses to adjudicate and litigate before Malawi Courts.

It is not clear where Sibande is heading but rumours have it that he would work for one of NGOs in the country.

Sibande will be remembered for his role in the Robert Chasowa Inquest, the court challenge against Electoral Commission closure by Late President Bingu Mutharika and the media-ban section 46 case which MHRC initially single-handedly sued Government arguing the law violated fundamental human rights under the Malawi Constitution.

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