Lawyers and civil society organisations (CSOs)) have said as long as the injunction suspending Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda over the Zambia maize saga is in place, no arm of government, nor the Attorney General, can act for him.
Cape Town University law professor Danwood Chirwa said the office of the Attorney General is a public office funded by the public and cannot, and does not, act for private individuals.
According to Chirwa, with respect to contempt charges, Chaponda acted in his personal capacity in flouting the injunction by travelling to Germany recently, where he allegedly performed official duties.
“It is a contradiction to say that the injunction still holds, or that Chaponda has committed contempt of court by continuing to act in his official capacity and at the same time allow the Attorney General to represent him because this would be a formal acknowledgement that he still retains his official capacity,” he said.
Chirwa advised lawyers representing CSOs in both the contempt and appeal cases to apply to the respective courts to throw out the Attorney General’s (AG) response to contempt charges, if he has field any, and his appeal papers filed at the Supreme Court, on grounds of lack of instructions and legality.
According to Chirwa, the lawyers should also ask that Chaponda reimburses the government for the expenses and time the AG spent acting on his behalf without instructions and illegally.
Commenting on the matter, Centre for Development of People (Cedep) executive director Gift Trapence said CSOs will use court processes to ensure that government, through the AG, is not abusing its mandate by representing or misrepresenting the interests of Malawians.
He said: “We have talked to our lawyers to raise the issue of the Attorney General in court.”
However, in a telephone interview Kaphale said he could have commented on the issue if it came from the courts.
He said there are a lot of views by law experts in the country and he does not want to exchange legal views in the media.
“I respect the views by various legal minds and I do not want to comment much on the issue,” he stressed.
In a similar vein, Malawi Law Society honorary secretary Khumbo Soko refused to comment on the issue, saying the law society usually refrains from commenting on matters that are still in court for fear of being seen as undermining the process.n