Mutharika administration must act fast on Malawi judiciary strike

Give me space to express my disappointment with the Bingu administration’s lack of speed with which they resolve issues. The strike at the Judiciary is a simple issue which would be resolved without delay if the Executive were really committed to rule of law.

The Judiciary staff are not demanding that they be paid their dues at once. All they want are a part payment and a commitment in writing that they would fully be paid their dues within a given period.

Does the Bingu Wa Mutharika administration want us to believe that it has a tendency for spending too much time before solving a problem whose solution lies at its fingertips?

Malawi lawyers recently joined the Judiciary junior staff in the sit-in strike

The Chanco academic freedom saga had to take eight months to resolve when the solution thereto was only on the lips of Bingu. By the time Bingu decided to utter it, eight good months and millions of kwacha, taxpayer’s money, had gone down the drain. What kind of administration is this? Bingu, please stop taking Malawians for granted. Most Malawians are intelligent. They know exactly that you are playing with their lives as you are miserably failing to run the affairs of government.

The strike has brought misery to many people. Imagine, if the City Assembly would write me they are to demolish my house in three days, there would be no legal remedy from the courts. If any employee or student is unlawfully dismissed, they would languish at home without any urgent legal remedy. Could it be Bingu is happy now because he, his cabinet and most DPP MPs apparently hate the courts? Judgments are not being enforced; people with grievances have nowhere to go for final settlement. Lawyers are being deprived of their right to economic activity, which economic activity produces income that is highly taxable. Government has thus lost millions of taxes from legal houses, and the Bingu administration is not concerned?! What kind of economics is being played in Malawi?! We were clearly deceived in 2004.

What is striking is that we are remaining with two arms of government, the Legislature and the Executive, both of which are virtually headed by Bingu; both of which are not as independent as the Judiciary due to the minority of opposition in the National Assembly. I hope it would not be wrong to conclude that the Executive is punishing the Judiciary for the independence which the Judiciary exercises. But that is beside the point. What is at stake is our image on the globe.

The Bingu administration is painting a clear picture that it is disrespectful to the wishes of the people of Malawi who collectively made the Republican Constitution, giving Government three branches. Yes, strikes are inevitable in a country but allowing them to paralyse an arm of government for more than a month just shows how serious the Bingu administration is not.

And I bet, we have not seen it yet; this strike will take as long as eight months before this leadership comes up with a solution, which when pronounced, all of us will say, ah, they should have made that decision when the strike was just two days old. Mediocrity, mediocrity, mediocrity of the worst kind. And so we expect donors to give us aid, to bail us out of the poverty abyss the zero deficit budget has put us in, when we know that most donors’ aid is tied to our government’s observance of human rights, rule of law, good economic management and governance,   the major check of which tenets of governing is provided by the very Judiciary that has been non-functional for weeks on end? I think the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) should not compete in the 2014 general elections. They have failed Malawians in many respects and they know it despite their pretence. If DPP dares to feature candidates in the elections, they will fail very badly and it will be a shame.

N.B. The author is a practicing Malawian lawyer

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