Attorney General (AG) Charles Mhango’s active involvement in frontline politics, where he doubles as legal adviser for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), raises “legitimate and practical questions”, Malawi Law Society has stated.
The Malawi Constitution, in Section 98(1) considers the Attorney General as the ‘principal legal adviser to government’ responsible for advising the Government on all legal matters and conducts civil litigation for and on behalf of the Government.
Mhango is on campaign roll for DPP ahead of next year’s Tripartite elections and has also declared his interest to contest as legislator for Rumphi Central Constituency to face Aford president and current member of Parliament (MP) Enoch Chakufwa Chihana.
Law Society honorary secretary Micheal Goba Chipeta said Mhango as Attorney General is the principal legal adviser to all the branches of the government – the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary – therefore he is required\2 to discharge his duties and to conduct himself in an impartial manner and in a manner which indicates that he is alive to his ethical duty to be professionally independent.”
Secretary General for the main opposition party—MCP Gustave Kaliwo, who is also a lawyer, agrees with calls to change the law to have someone without clear and perceived political affiliation to hold the office of the AG for them to work impartially.
“Much as I have a lot of respect for Mr. Charles Mhango, we are talking of the office and not the individual and when we are talking of the office, definitely the Malawi Congress Party doesn’t want to get legal advice from the legal advisor of the DPP. No matter how independent he maybe, we will have problems with that and I am sure that this is the feeling of other political parties as well. That is not to undermine the president’s prerogative to appoint the attorney general but if he wants to inspire confidence in that office then we need someone who is not typically a politician with a clear affiliation to a party,” said Kaliwo as quoted in the press.
But Mhango said he is not the first one to be in that position while still active in mainstream politics, saying the law permits such a situation.
He said the argument against him would only be justifiable in a case where someone can prove that he has not provided fair advice say to Parliament or members of the House because of his affiliation to the DPP.
“In my scenario, the political party I am giving advice to is a ruling party; therefore, I do not see any conflict of interest. However, in my advice as Charles Mhango, I do not show my party colours because I advise the Speaker, I advise the Chief Justice and I advise all the three arms of government. I don’t, in my work, demonstrate any party colours,” he said as quoted by Weekend Nation
Private practice lawyer Justin Dzonzi shares fears that the AG’s affiliation to the ruling party undermines his role as a principal legal adviser to government