Revelations of covet corrupt practices in the country’s courts have sent ripples, with the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Mary Kachale and Malawi Law Society warning that rogue lawyers will face the wrath of the law.
According to her directorate’s spokesperson, Pirirani Masanjala, Kachale’s office was taking seriously complaints of endemic corruption and unprofessionalism in the legal system raised by High Court Judge Esmie Chombo.
In an email response, the publicist said the DPP has since charged a legal practitioner allegedly involved in production and execution of fraudulent garnishee orders.
This comes in response to a letter from Judge Chombo to Malawi Law Society (MLS) in which she bemoaned corrupt conducts of some lawyers who pay court officials to disrupt court processes.
Masanjala said the DPP takes “seriously” the concerns on the conduct of some legal practitioners in the country.
“If it is determined by the proper authorities such as the police or other investigative agencies that there were and are criminal activities in the way that legal practitioners are conducting themselves, then the Directorate of Public Prosecutions will proceed with the appropriate action in order to fulfil its mandate,” he said.
He said the action against the suspected lawyers is a signal that this is not “an empty assertion”.
However, he stated that the mandate of the directorate does not extend to conducting investigations.
“At this stage, the office of the DPP places the confidence in the ability of law enforcement agencies,” he said, asking MLS to act on the whistleblower’s communication.
He commended the Judiciary for leading by example in exposing the malpractices, saying the DPP hopes the concerns will set in motion processes that will address the problems.
In an emailed response, MLS president Khumbo Soko said the society, which regulates the legal profession in the country, does not shield its members when circumstances warrant that they face discipline.
He said: “These complaints are attended to with the deserving seriousness every time they are made as the society understands that it has the legal duty to ensure that the standing and credibility of the institution of lawyers is preserved.
“Where its attention is drawn to specific instances of professional misconduct, the society always ensures that such allegations are fairly but firmly inquired into by its disciplinary committee.”
According to Soko, the number of cases successfully investigated by the disciplinary committee over the last couple of years show they do not take complaints lightly.
“Lawyers are citizens of this State first and, like everyone else, are under the laws of the land. The practice of the law does not extend to committing brazen acts of criminality,” he said.
Meanwhile, Legal Aid Bureau has questioned the Judiciary’s failure to assign a date for a case it filed 21 months ago—only to get a date when a private practice lawyer took over the matter.
The Nation has seen a letter dated January 26 2018 in which the bureau’s advocate Chimwemwe Chithope-Mwale expressed surprise that the High Court in Mzuzu only took weeks to assign a date for the seemingly forgotten case when the matter was handled by a private lawyer.
This is a case in which murder suspect Wilson Kambonje spent eight years at Mzuzu Prison without appearing in court.
In the miscellaneous criminal application number 25 of 2016, the Bureau applied for bail on April 8 2016, at Mzuzu Registry.
Chithope wrote: “However, even though the application was issued in April 2016 and only awaited the assigning of a date of hearing, the application was not given a date on which it could be heard by the High Court.
“The application up to now—which is one year and nine months later— has not yet been assigned a date of hearing,” reads the letter.
In the letter, Chithope-Mwale said, however, the bureau noted this month that there was an application for bail for the same Kambonje registered as miscellaneous criminal application number 89 of 2017 filed by a private law firm.
The case was given a date for hearing of January 31 2018.
“It is because of this development that the Legal Aid bureau writes your good office seeking clarification as to what might have gone amiss. Having filed and the registrar, having issued the bail application Legal Aid Bureau filed, the Bureau is of the view that the High Court was supposed to assign a date of hearing for the application but this was not done for over 20 months since the application was filed,” reads the letter that The Nation has seen. n