Immediate past Chief Justice (CJ) Andrew Nyirenda formally retired from the bench on December 26 2021 and has earned praises from Malawi Law Society (MLS) which lauded his contribution to the legal profession.
In an interview on Monday, MLS president Patrick Mpaka said Nyirenda’s calmness when the administration of justice in the country faced and passed one of its major stress tests under the national tense moments of 2019 to 2020 demonstrates his “great abilities”.
“It shows how his professionalism has held the country together and helped to navigate the nation through difficult times under the law,” he said.
Nyirenda retired following expiry of his tenure on December 26 2021 after attaining the mandatory retirement age of 65.
Mpaka said Nyirenda also led critical improvements in the Judiciary which should set as a good example to all holders of public office.
He said Nyirenda’s work ethic reflected his trust in the institutions of democracy.
In an internal memorandum announcing Nyirenda’s retirement, High Court of Malawi and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal registrar Gladys Gondwe said Nyirenda has left office with a mark of excellence.
She said: “The honourable the Chief Justice [retired] has led the Judiciary with a mark of distinction since his appointment to the office of Chief Justice on March 12 2015.
“He will be fondly remembered for the developmental strides the Judiciary has experienced during his tenure of office.”
Section 113 (1) of the country’s Constitution provides that the most senior judge sitting on the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal bench performs functions of the CJ office until a substantive appointment is made.
Gondwe said Justice of Appeal Rezine Mzikamanda will perform the functions of the office until when President Lazarus Chakwera appoints Nyirenda’s successor.
Mpaka on Monday said as MLS, they expect Nyirenda’s successor to build on the positive gains that the Judiciary has registered and to focus on urgently encouraging the hard-working professionals in the Judiciary.
In a separate interview, former MLS president Khumbo Soko said under Nyirenda’s tenure, the Judiciary remained fiercely independent.
He obser ved that elsewhere, heads of the Judiciary undermine its independence by coercing their officers into producing outcomes favourable to their political allies, especially in the Executive branch of government, but that has not been the case in Malawi.
Soko said: “We also saw a couple of court houses that were renovated. I know he would have loved to see the Judiciary Complex constructed on his watch but in all fairness that was an issue that was beyond his control as resources for the judicial organ of the State are still controlled by the Executive.
“On a personal level, I must say he always came across as an impressive and authoritative judge, eloquent and ve r y articulate. Appearing in his court was always an exciting occasion.”
But he said the CJ, in his other role as chairperson of the Judicial Service Commission, did little to revamp and modernise operations of the Judiciary.
Besides, Soko said there have been complaints of delayed judgements and there was hardly any progress stressing that it would have been important to work on reforming the Judicial Service Commission so that underperforming judicial officers could be called to account.
Nyirenda was appointed CJ on March 12 2015 by former president Peter Mutharika.
NYIRENDA FAST FACTS
- Retired Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda was born on December 26 1956 at Bunga Village, Traditional Authority Boghoyo in Nkhata Bay District.
- He joined the civil service in 1980 as State advocate in the Ministry of Justice.
- In 1983, he was posted to the Legal Aid Bureau, formerly Legal Aid Department, as legal Aid advocate.
- In 1984, Nyirenda was promoted to principal State advocate and in 1991 he became chief State advocate.
- In 1992, he became chief public prosecutor, now called director of public prosecutions (DPP).
- Nyirenda was appointed judge of the High Court of Malawi on June 4 1994.
- He became Justice of Appeal on June 3 2008 before being appointed Chief Justice on March 12 2015
- Nyirenda holds a bachelor of laws from University of Malawi obtained in 1980 and a master of laws.