Attorney General (AG) Maxon Mbendera on Tuesday faulted the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) for publicly accusing the Judiciary of corruption before identifying the culprits in the system.
The AG, who is MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Head of the Bar, told The Nation in an exclusive interview he would have expected the ACB to make the allegations after their investigations established elements of corruption in the Judiciary and after people were brought to book.
Mbendera, who is governmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s chief legal adviser, affirmed that the Judiciary in the country is competent, beyond question and scrutiny.
He, therefore, feared that such allegations by ACB would hurt the country and erode peopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s confidence in the institution.
ACB director Alex Nampota last Friday addressed a news conference in Blantyre where he publicly accused detained lawyer, politician, human rights activist and former AG Ralph Kasambara of allegedly corrupting Judiciary officers.
Nampota said the bureau was not ashamed to mention that Kasambara, on behalf of his client, handed over money to a judge who was admitted to a hospital, stating the ACB had been investigating the matter for years.
The ACB levelled the allegations to justify why it questioned how Kasambara obtained a court bail when the Judiciary support staff is on strike. The ACB also summoned lawyers that represented Kasambara in obtaining bail.
But Mbendera, who served as judge at the High CourtÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Commercial Division, said the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s faith is founded upon the principle of the Constitution which, he said, is supreme.
He said there are three independent bodies with special competencies, but dependent on each other. These organs, said Mbendera, are the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Government is like a three-legged stool, if one leg is removed, you know what happensÃ¢â‚¬â€the stool falls. Therefore, as Attorney General, at this time in the history of the country, I must affirm [that] we have a Judiciary that is competent and is beyond scrutiny and beyond question as a body.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“But as it usually happens in the dynamics of these human-driven organisations, there are likely to be problems here and there…, but if there are allegations against the Judiciary… the Legislature [or any other body], those allegations will hurt the country.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He said it was for this reason that such allegations should be made after thorough investigations and suspects are pinpointed other than the blanket allegation made in the public domain without facts.
The AG said while institutions such as the Malawi Police Service (MPS), Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) and ACB are mandated to carry out investigations, they must ensure that their work does not destroy peopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s confidence in an institution.
On the ongoing seven-week-old strike by Judiciary support staff that has paralysed the countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s justice delivery system, Mbendera said the situation is terrible since one leg of a stool is removed. He worried that police could be holding on to some innocent people.
The AG said he was involved in several meetings aimed at resolving the Judiciary impasse, but could not disclose what has been discussed so far. But he described the stand-off as an unfortunate development in the history of Malawi.
In an interview on Monday, Nampota defended his decision of calling for a news conference where he attacked the Judiciary, saying the Kasambara matter had generated public interest. He admitted the ACB went out of its way, but said it had to with the nature of the matter.
In a related development, the ACB has also summoned High Court and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal Registrar Dorothy Kamanga and her deputy Mike Tembo in connection to the same allegation levelled against Kasambara and the JudiciaryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s alleged corruption.
Malawi Law Society (MLS) president John-Gift Mwakhwawa confirmed the summons for Kamanga and Tembo, disclosing that they were informed.
He described the summons as continued harassment of the Judiciary by the ACB.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“What do you call it when the ACB director pleads his matter to the public through media, but when those harassed go to the same media; you accuse them of being unethical? This is the harassment we are talking about,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
Private practice lawyer Wapona Kita on Monday refused to take questions from ACB on how he obtained court bail for Kasambara. His colleague Lusungu Gondwe appeared before the ACB panel on Tuesday and took a similar stand.
Blantyre chief resident magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa and principal resident magistrate Innocent Nebi also appeared before the ACB panel on Tuesday for interrogation. Kamanga and Tembo are, however, yet to appear.
Kasambara, who was on remand at Zomba Maximum Security Prison, is receiving medical treatment at Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.
Kasambara was arrested last week Monday alongside his associates Arthur Chikankheni, Mayamiko Kadango, Brian Magoya, Patrick Gadama and Ali Kaka.
They were charged with assault occasioning bodily harm on a trio that reportedly attempted to assassinate Kasambara and petrol-bomb his offices and residence in Blantyre.