Commentators have told Malawi President Joyce Banda to apologise to Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo for accusing him last year of being part of the plot to thwart her ascendancy to the presidency.
Banda—after assuming office last April following the death of then president Bingu wa Mutharika—told The Guardian Newspaper of the United Kingdom that Munlo participated in a conspiracy to foil her swearing-in as Head of State because, she claimed, he preferred Peter Mutharika, the late president’s younger brother who at the time was Foreign Affairs minister.
But with Munlo cleared of any wrongdoing by the Commission of Inquiry into Mutharika’s death—which also investigated machinations to stop Banda from taking over power—national coordinator for Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) Chris Chisoni and Chancellor College political scientist Joseph Chunga said on Wednesday Banda owes Munlo an apology.
“It shows that the President was misinformed and said things based on hearsay; something not closer to the truth. Since she was misinformed and acted on wrong information, it is right that she clarifies issues out of integrity and say sorry. She cannot be exonerated by saying she was misinformed,” said Chisoni.
He observed that President Banda had dented Munlo’s image and lowered the public’s estimation of the Chief Justice’s office.
Chunga, who is also president of Political Science Association, said the President’s utterances against Munlo bordered on character assassination.
“In so far as the report is concerned, we may argue that the Chief Justice did not take the role the President accused him of.
“As others take responsibility for their roles, including appearing before courts of law, it is only in order that Banda should also take responsibility and apologise to Munlo,” he said.
Presidential press secretary Steve Nhlane refused to comment on the calls for the President to apologise.
On his part, Munlo said on Friday: “At that time, I said this is malicious…that there is no truth in it… The facts are out. The truth is known. I leave it to Malawians to judge for themselves”.
Meanwhile, the Malawi Law Society (MLS) which—following President Banda’s accusations asked Munlo to resign to pave the way for investigations into his role in the alleged coup plot—on Thursday defended the position it took at the time.
“If you recall very well, certain “grave” allegations were made against the [Chief Justice] in the media regarding his role in the alleged coup plot. The MLS felt that the said allegations had serious implications on the integrity, standing and public confidence of not only the Chief justice but the Judiciary as a whole. That is why MLS requested the Judicial Service Commission to investigate the allegations levelled against the Chief Justice,” said MLS secretary Felisah Kilembe.
She said to allow the Judicial Service Commission to properly carry out its investigations, MLS further requested the commission to allow the Chief Justice to resign as its chairperson and to appoint someone to act in the position and oversee the investigations.
“We felt that taking the above path was necessary to address the need for accountability and also afford the Chief Justice a formal forum and opportunity to be heard and also establish information that would meet the public quest for the truth; and foster the rule of law and public confidence in State institutions. The MLS never accused the Chief Justice of any wrongdoing, all we did was to request an investigation,” said Kilembe.
The Mutharika death commission of inquiry established that while Munlo visited Peter Mutharika’s residence twice on April 6 and 7 2012, none of the visits had anything to do with making Peter President of Malawi.
“From the totality of the evidence, the Commission established that there were no judges who gathered at Honourable Peter Mutharika’s house on the 6th or 7th April 2012 for the purposes of swearing in Honourable Peter Mutharika as acting president of the country.
“The Commission, however, established that the Chief Justice went to the house of Honourable Peter Mutharika on Friday, 6th and Saturday, 7th, April 2012 to offer his condolences to him on the death of the President as a family friend,” reads the report in part.
The report further says when Munlo returned from Tanzania after being recalled by chief secretary Bright Msaka following the emergency, the Chief Justice stayed in Lilongwe on instruction from then Attorney General Maxon Mbendera since he was told he was supposed to swear in a next president.
The report has led to the arrest on Monday of 11 DPP and top government officials for the roles they played in events surrounding the death of the late president Mutharika and the subsequent transfer of power.
The 11, who include DPP acting president Peter Mutharika, Economic Planning and Development Minister Goodall Gondwe, interdicted head of public service Bright Msaka and his deputy Necton Mhura.
Others are former ministers Patricia Kaliati (Information and Civic Education), Symon Vuwa Kaunda (Sports and Youth Development), Jean Kalirani (Health) and Henry Mussa (Local Government and Rural Development) as well as former deputy ministers Kondwani Nankhuni (Foreign Affairs) and Nicholas Dausi (Office of the President and Cabinet).
The accused were charged with, among other charges, treason, inciting mutiny, disobedience to statutory duty and giving false evidence to the Commission of Inquiry.