The Supreme Court of Apppeal, sitting in Mzuzu on Wednesday, has adjourned until further notice a case in which the state appealed against a High Court ruling which said President Peter Mutharika should suspend embattled former Agriculture minister George Chaponda. The Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale led the state lawyers.
One of the lawyers, Apoche Itimu told the court that the civil society organisations which took the matter to court had no interest in the matter.
She said the civil society organnisations, which included Livingstonia Synod’s Society had no powers to force Mutharika suspend Chaponda.
“In the lower court, the applicants did not present to court any affidavits and there was no constitutional evidence that was presented to help the court on whether or not the CSOs had sufficient interest. There also was no evidence on how their rights would be affected,” Itimu said.
Itimu argued that there are limits to the extent to which a minister can be suspended under the country’s laws.
She defended the appeal that matters raised at the Supreme Court would set precedent on how one can commence judicial review among others.
“The matter would still have implications because the court is being called upon to look at circumstances that require judicial review. Can anybody, without being affected by that decision, go before the court and commence proceedings for example? That has a bearing on how we handle a lot of matters in this county,” Itimu said.
The case dates back to some months ago before Chaponda was fired from cabinet after two state inquiries found him with a case to answer on his handling of the purchase of maize from Zambia.
Itimu said although Chaponda was fired from cabinet and things have changed, there was need for the Supreme Court to conclude the matter and give its verdict so as to set a precedent.
Lawyer for Charles Kajoloweka and some civil society organisations which took the matter to court, said the appellants had sufficient interest in the matter.
Appearing before a three-member panel of Supreme Court of Appeal judges comprising Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda, Justice Edward Twea and Justice Frank Kapanda, counsel for the CSOs, Victor Gondwe, argued that issues raised in the lower court necessitate further inquiry.
Gondwe told the court that even though the commission of inquiry set up by Mutharika completed its work, it remains important for precedent’s sake that laws that govern ministerial appointments, removal and suspension in the country’s Constitution should be looked into.
“The position of our clients was not against anybody else when we went to the lower court. We simply wanted to bring in accountability… as an opportunity to remind those in authority that they are accountable to the people in general and also to use that case as a basis for making sure that our laws, especially on who can take matters to court on behalf of the masses, are made clear.
“The position has now changed. A lot of developments have happened that may not have been there that time. To some extent, our clients complained that some of the issues may have been addressed in view of what had occurred,” Gondwe said.
The case comes at a time when graft busting body, the Anti-Corruption Bureau says it has completed its investigations on Chaponda on the purchase of Zambia maize.
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