Some lawyers in the country are planning d emo n s t r a t i o n s tomorrow to defend the country ’s judicial independence following government’s decision to force Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda to go on leave pending retirement.
Chief Secretary to Government Lloyd Muhara on June 12 published in a notice forcing Nyirenda to proceed on leave pending retirement.
The lawyers’ letter of notice about the impending protests to Blantyre, Mzuzu, Zomba and Lilongwe chief executive officers, dated June 15 2020, has been signed by John-Gift Mwakhwawa, Ngeyi Ruth Kanyongolo, Mike Munthali, Alexious Kamangila and Khwima Mchizi.
It reads: “The letter serves to notify you about our intention to hold peaceful demonstrations, in terms of Section 96 of the Police Act, to push President Peter Mutharika and the Executive arm of government to respect independence of the Judiciary and the rule of law.
“This is not only in line with our constitutional right but further is our duty to defend the institution that safeguards our existence as a law profession.”
In an interview yesterday, Mwakhwawa said the protests are about a bigger issue, not just about the situation surrounding justices Nyirenda and Edward Twea.
He said: “What we want is to present issues about judicial independence and the rule of law. The notice has already been sent to all city councils.”
According to the notice, the protests in Zomba will start from the district commissioner’s office to the High Court while in Mzuzu, they will begin from Shoprite to the High Court.
In Lilongwe, they will parade from Mbowe Filling Station down Kamuzu Procession Road through Lilongwe Hotel to the High Court and in Blantyre, they will march from Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital to the Principal Registry.
statements were issued yesterday faulting the Executive for issuing the notice against Nyirenda and Twea. statements were issued
In its statement, Public Affairs Committee (PAC) chairperson Monsignor Patrick Thawale said the Judiciary is a vanguard for constitutionalism and the rule of law and an assault on the institution defeats the wheels of democracy.
Reads the statement: “No reasonable-minded person would tread on the judicial terrain in the manner that stifles the security of the tenure of office of judges… Malawians have tolerated enough and time has come to fight for the common good.”
The Commonwealth M a g i s t r a t e s ’ a n d Judges’ Association, Commonwealth Legal Education Association, Commonwealth Lawyers Association and Rechters Voor Rechters (Judges for Judges) also called on government to abide by the Constitution and its international obligations, including the Commonwealth Charter agreed by heads of government.
It reads: “We call on the Malawi Government to respect the authority and independence of the Judiciary and ensure that due process is followed in line with the Constitution and its international obligations.”
In a separate statement, law professors and academics from around the world said they were concerned about coordinated attempts by the government to undermine the Judiciary.
They further faulted Mutharika for “falsely” accusing the Judiciary of having staged a coup against his government and claiming that Parliament is supreme in Malawi.
Mutharika has publicly faulted the Judiciary for nullifying last year ’s presidential election.