Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) says it is concerned with rising Covid-19 cases, but maintains that government should only implement a lockdown when poor people are provided with safety nets.
HRDC lawyer Wesley Mwafulirwa was responding to our query yesterday on whether the organisation still stands by its earlier court action that stopped the previous government from implementing a 21-day national lockdown in April.
The lockdown was scheduled to roll out at midnight April 18 to midnight May 9 with a possibility of extension. But the announcement sparked spontaneous protests nationwide before HRDC went to court to obtain the order.
Mwafulirwa said HRDC was willing to make an out of court settlement on certain terms in view of the rising cases, but added the court is ready to make a ruling on the injunction case very soon.
Latest Covid-19 statistics from Ministry of Health show that as of Wednesday this week, 111 people had died and 3 858 cases were confirmed.
Said Mwafulirwa: “My client has been willing to have this case settled out of court because of the increasing cases of Covid 19, however when we consider that a judgement is just a few days away, we decided to wait.”
He said HRDC could also have opted to remove the injunction, but that some pertinent issues such as the need for government to provide safety nets for people that live hand-to-mouth would have remained unresolved.
“Let’s allow our courts to guide us on how that can be done. We also have to learn from what has happened to our friends in other countries, how did they do it and where did they get it wrong?” said Mwafulirwa.
In an interview yesterday Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 co-chairperson John Phuka said adherence to preventive measures set by Ministry of Health remains the only solution to fight the pandemic.
Phuka observed that as long as Malawians will unite for a common purpose to fight the disease, a lot will be achieved.
In May this year Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda certified as a constitutional matter the case in which some individuals and civil society organisations (CSOs) sought an injunction to stop government from executing the lockdown.
In a notice dated April 30 2020, the Chief Justice said the matters in the case comply with Section 9(2) of the Courts Act which stipulates that matters relating to or requiring interpretation of the Constitution shall be heard and disposed of by or before not less than three judges.
In his ruling on April 28 in which he sustained the injunction he had granted against the lockdown on April 17, Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda said the nature of the issues raised required him to refer the matter to the constitutional court.
The Society of Medical Doctors (SMD) also told the High Court of Malawi that coronavirus prevention measures such as lockdown are not appropriate because they could impinge on people’s livelihood on access to food and health care.
The High Court had requested for SMD expert opinion or evidence in the case in which the former Minister of Health declaration of the lockdown in April was challenged through a judicial review process that was then certified as a constitutional matter.
In their submission to the court dated July 20 2020, the medical doctors, with specific reference to lockdown, acknowledged the potential utility of such a measure to curb the spread of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, but cast doubt on effective implementation of the measure.
The court also asked Malawi Law Society and Women Lawyers Association to make their submissions as friends of the court.n