Awoman looking for her goats that had wandered away from the herd asked a deaf man whether he had seen them.
The deaf man thought she was asking for the water-hole, so he pointed vaguely towards the river.
And when she went to the river, the woman coincidentally found the goats. But a young kid had broken its foot.
She picked it up, to carry it home. As she passed by the deaf man, she stopped to thank him for his help and in gratitude offered him the kid.
But the deaf man did not understand a word she was saying. He thought she was accusing him of the animal’s misfortune, and a quarrel ensued.
So the woman with the kid in her arms and the deaf man went to the house of the judge.
They talked, but that meant very little for the judge was equally very deaf and near-sighted.
At last, he gave them his judgement.
“Such family rows are a disgrace to the Emperor and an affront to the Church. From this time forward, stop mistreating your wife. As for you, do not be so lazy. Hereafter, do not be late with your husband’s meals. And as for the beautiful infant, may she have a long life and grow to be a joy to you both!”
This abridged tale from Ethiopia found in Ian Gordon’s Looking for a Rain God and Other Short Stories from Africa reveals that justice too can be deaf and blind to truth.
It makes some sharp observations about age-old problem of finding justice which are still relevant today.
Little wonder, an institutional audit of the country’s Judiciary, conducted on behalf of Citizen for Justice and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and whose report was presented in Lilongwe recently, has called for relaxation of stringent provisions that govern the process of impeaching judges in Malawi, saying the move has contributed to indiscipline and impunity in the Judiciary.
The report, for example, has cited instances of judges under investigation by the ACB continuing presiding over cases as damaging to the credibility of the Judiciary and the rule of law.
Again, among other notable scholars, South Africa-based Malawian professor of law at University of Cape Town, Danwood Chirwa, faulted Malawi Law Society (MLS) for failing to uphold the legal profession that respects minimum standards of integrity and ethical behaviour by letting lawyers answering criminal charges continue representing clients in court.
And the Judiciary carries a historical dark side despite justice being a perennial yearn for all.
Blight of corruption and moral degradation, from ancient Egypt, through Greece to imperial Rome has characterised the Judiciary in various degrees.
In Malawi, the situation is worsened by the fact that, as noted by Voice of Micah in the recent magazine of The Lamp, a majority of legal practitioners are graduates of just one law school.
The result has not only been almost one school of thought but growing of some complex matrix among the many legal practitioners.
Although MLS, which comprises all lawyers at its national executive committee, sustains standards, personal relations dating back to college days, tribal or ethnic underpinnings, professional allegiances and financial networks that deny or dissuade the public from getting justice in all probability exist among some of the country’s judicial practitioners.
In these circumstances, at times the exercise of duty could be accompanied by abstruse, solemn and meaningless rituals buttressed by fear-inducing superstitions within these rituals to ensure that a great gulf is maintained between the Judiciary and ordinary citizens.
Judiciary reforms as suggested, therefore, are welcome to rid it of probable blindness and deafness.