Members of legal profession and court users on Wednesday took the streets of the capital Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu to voice their concern about the Executive arm of government’s alleged attempt to interfere with the independence of the judiciary.
Donning black gowns and dark cream wigs and their usual court attire, the lawyers marched peacefully and some chanting “aliratu, alila!” in protest against the government’s decision to send Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda on forced leave pending retirement.
In the country’s capital Lilongwe, lawyers carrying placards reading; “Executive Hands Off Judiciary” and “No to Impunity,” marched to the district court registry to deliver their grievances.
“Our courts should be able to deliver judgements freely and independently without interference,” said lawyer Bernadette Malunga, who led the Lilongwe march.
John Gift Makhwawa a private practice lawyer who was one of the organisers of the march in Blantyre, said:“We are here to protect the rule of law and in defence of the judiciary.”
The demonstrations came in the wake of the decision by the government to send Nyirenda and Supreme Court judge Edward Twea on leave two weeks ago pending retirement.
Lawyer Bright Theu vowed that Chief Justice Nyirenda and Justice of Appeal Twea will continue to discharge their functions “as per their Constitution mandate.”
Theu said the Chief Justice does not leave the office by public notice , vowing “Chief Justice Nyirenda and Twea are going no where.”
Lawyer Victor Gondwe in Mzuzu read out the petition presented to Mzuzu High Court Registrar, Brian Sambo, which say they will see to it that nobody tampers with constitutionalism, “tell the executive to get hands-off the Judiciary.”
Gondwe said the media statement released by Minister of Information Mark Botomani insisting that Nyirenda should go on forced leave pending his retirement, was tantamount to contempt of court because there are two injunctions that restrain anyone from forcing the Chief Justice Nyirenda to proceed on holiday for retirement.
“The two orders of the court still stand and he can be held accountable for that is completely wrong, illegal. Even if it was not for the court order, the constitution itself is clear that there shall not be any form of interference to the judiciary,” said Gondwe.
The Malawi Law Society and The Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) together with the Association of Magistrates obtained injuction stopping the government from proceeding with the process of forcing Justice Nyirenda from retiring.
Gondwe said they will not allow politicians to continue violating the Constitution through resolutions that are only aimed at serving their interest.
On June 16, 2020 Botomani issued a communication re-affirming government’s stand to have Chief Justice Nyirenda go for leave while awaiting retirement.
Among the lawyers included Senior Counsel and respected Malawi’s constitutional lawyer Mordecai Msiska, former Blantyre City Mayor Noel Chalamanda and female lawyers.
They all in unison contend that actions by the Executive constitute an unpresecedented assault in judicial independence.
Msiska led the procession of lawyers who demonstrated in Blantyre.
“We are defending the judiciary because the Constitution requires of us. The Constitution is the will of the people. The Cconstitution is the people speaking on a continuing basis. The Constitution is not a piece of paper, it is Malawians speaking. And those of you who were there and recall the events of the 1993-1994, you will know how much time and effort was invested in consulting with the people as the text of the constitution was being developed.
“We are here to remind those that wish to forget and those that wish think the Constitution can be made a dead letter, no! The Constitution is Malawians speaking and they speak everyday through this document.
Now if the people speak, those that are choosing to forget the voice of the people, I want to remind them that in the various positions in which they sit, they sit because the people spoke and said that they wanted to set up an open accountable democratic government,” Msiska said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :