Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Trasizio Gowelo risks being jailed following his decision to demote Chitipa acting district commissioner (DC) Grace Chirwa, her lawyer George Kadzipatike has warned.
On Thursday, Jivason and Company wrote the minister and principal secretary Kester Kaphaizi urging against last week’s nullification of Chirwa’s promotion to Grade E/3, a matter that is still in the High Court.
The request to the minister followed a meeting Gowelo and Kaphaizi had with Chirwa on April 1 2015 where Chirwa’s role as DC was nullified despite an injunction restraining the ministry from downgrading her to director of administration at Rumphi District Council.
According to the court order issued last month at the High Court in Mzuzu by judge Dingiswayo Madise, the minister and Kaphaizi could be jailed, fined or have their property seized for contempt of court if found in defiance of the February 19 ruling.
In the April 2 letter, Kadzipatike sternly spells out to the ministry’s top brass their responsibilities in the wake of the Fool’s Day reiteration of Chirwa’s transfer to Rumphi.
Said the lawyer: “Although courts are not employers of our client, you must be better placed to know that courts are legally and constitutionally entitled to guard against abuse of power by those holding power in the country.”
Gowelo referred the matter to the ministry’s public relations officer Muhlabase Mughogho, saying: “I cannot comment because I have not yet received the letter.”
In an interview, Mughogho stated: “Once it [the letter] arrives, we will forward to the office of the Attorney General at the Ministry of Justice.”
In the letter, the lawyer discredits the resolution of the April 1 meeting, whose agenda was given to his client the same day, as “invalid” saying the views of “the honourable minister and his noble office cannot and will never override the Order of the High Court of Malawi”.
In his reasoning, the meeting was “an act of contempt of court for which the Minister and your office may be prosecuted”.
Chirwa wants the minister to respect the rule of law to release incoming DC Rodney Simwaka—who spoke of enduring a torrid month of uncertainty at Chitipa Inn.