Time for Malawi Law Society to reflect deeply on its actions on LL-Salima water supply project

Malawi Law Society, a professional grouping of trained legal practitioners, should have done their homework exhaustively when they  sought leave for a  judicial review on the Lake Malawi Water Supply Project.

President of MLS Soko: Law Society queries Lake Malawi water project

The arguments that informed their actions to go the High Court in Zomba were that Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) who is the client had proceeded to allow the contractor Khato Civils commence engineering works on site before several technicalities had been addressed.
Despite the High Court granting MLS their wishes, a subsequent determination by Supreme Court of Appeal delivered by Justice Lovemore Chikopa faulted both the process through which MLS sought leave for judicial review at the High Court and their arguments.
MLS had querried the rationale of Khato Civils commencing work before an Environmental Impact Assessment had been carried out.
As per Justice Chikopa’s determination MLS failed to understand the nitty-gritties of the contract between LWB and Khato Civils hence they went ahead with their prayers before a High Court judge in the first place.
The contract that Khato Civils signed with Lilongwe Water Board is what is known as “Engineering, Procurement and Construction contract”
Only at Construction stage can anyone claim the absence of an EIA. Before that, Khato Civils were not in the wrong by mobilizing equipment and familiarizing with the communities and geographical terrain in through which the project will pass.
The Supreme Court also observed several legal technicalities that MLS flouted on the deadlines set by the High Court.
By missing both legal and engineering technicalities MLS has courted ridicule both from within its own membership and without.
The body’s members have questioned why MLS leadership even came to a conclusion/consensus to take the matter to court without first understanding what they were getting themselves into.
Tempers have been flying in lawyer’s social media groups attacking and defending MLS counsel in the case, Bright Theu. Some say he did a bad job of proceeding to represent the body without researching extensively on the case.
When the dust settles MLS should reflect deeply on itself in regards to its mandate. Yes they must intervene on issues to protect people’s human rights but they must do so with facts at hand.
One would be tempted to think that MLS actions were as a result of subjectivity and partiality on the part of MLS leadership. Were they really sincere to carry out such a fact-off legal battle?
We only hope time will be a better judge to see if what MLS did or wanted is in line with the grouping’s mandate and the aspirations of the whole membership.
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