Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and Irrigation chairperson Joseph Chidanti Malunga has been taken to court for contempt for allegedly making prejudicial statements with potential to interfere with the administration of justice.
Private firm Transglobe Produce Export Limited wants the Nsanje South West member of Parliament (MP) to be punished for allegedly undermining the judicial independence by calling for the prohibition of the company in the country after it obtained an order stopping implementation of the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp).
Lawyer representing Transglobe, Lusungu Gondwe, said in an interview his client has commenced contempt of court proceedings against the legislator.
Registrar of the High Court of Malawi and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, Agnes Patemba, also confirmed the action, saying Transglobe instituted committal proceedings and that High Court judge Kenyatta Nyirenda granted permission that the matter should be heard.
She said: “The judge has allowed that they should proceed to hear committal proceedings. So, the hearing will take place on November 17 for the court to decide whether the parliamentarian is in contempt of court or not.”
In an interview in view of the action, Malunga said his duty was to serve the country and that when he speaks on anything he does so on behalf of his committee.
He said: “It is not personal whatsoever. Nobody can stop us from playing our oversight role. This is our country which only ourselves are responsible for.”
Documents filed in court by Transglobe show that after the court granted an order of stay on October 20 2017 against implementing any activities under Fisp, Malunga, while aware of the order, “made prejudicial statements bent on interfering with the administration of justice”.
Reads in part the court documents: “The alleged contemnor has clearly neglected or ignored the value of the independence of the Judiciary. He tends to undermine the power of the courts. He incites indignation in the minds of the nation. This is not in good keeping with administration of justice.”
Over the past months, Malunga has been talking tough against Transglobe and its participation in the 2017/18 Fisp after one of the company’s directors was arrested in relation to the procurement of maize from Zambia by State produce trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc). n