Practically, all eyes were on Ombudsman Grace Malera as she set out to present a report on a probe into the recruitment of Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) chief executive officer Henry Kachaje.
The Ombudsman was barely 10 minutes into her presentation which was also beamed live by some local television stations when she was stopped in her tracks.
It transpired she had just been served with a court order stopping her from presenting the findings of the report titled ‘Curbing Impunity’. Her mood and that of her colleagues suddenly changed after receiving a note.
Wearing a brave face, Malera, a lawyer who previously served as Law Commissioner, announced that she would not proceed as a court order had been served on her office to stop the presentation.
She said: “It must be put on record that we have been served with an injunction almost 10 minutes after the scheduled time for this presentation. We were already making the presentation, but in view of this court order we cannot proceed.”
With the woman who brought the court order documents standing by the doorway, jurnalists asked Malera to also present her message on the report in Chichewa. She did.
At this moment, the person who served the injunction left the room.
On legal implications of the action, labour law expert Mauya Msuku said he did not see any because the Ombudsman’s determination in itself is not final and subject to review.
He said: “In fact, the reports from the Ombudsman will always state that any aggrieved party can seek review in the High Court so there is nothing strange in this. If there was no room for review, then the Ombudsman would become untouchable. The law feared that; hence, the right to review”.
Msuku said both Mera and the Office of the Ombudsman are at liberty to seek legal advice from the office of the Attorney General (AG) as chief legal adviser to the government.
In an interview last evening, AG Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda said no party has approached him yet on the matter.
He said if approached on representation, he would go for reconciliation and mediation as provided for by the law.
In a separate interview, former AG Charles Mhango also said there is no harm with the two government agencies seeking legal advice from the AG.
But he said it was wrong for Mera to begin to question Malera as being conflicted because she had applied for the same post, as this should have been raised earlier.
Malera in her determination, indicated that both Mera and Mera board chairperson Leonnard Chikadya and Kachaje raised the conflict of interest issue.