The snail’s pace at which Malawian courts deal with cases has dented the image of the Judiciary in the country, a Nation on Sunday survey has shown.
The survey, which was asking people whether they are happy with the way the courts operate in Malawi, was conducted in 13 districts through face-to-face interviews and our short message service (SMS).
Out of a sample of 749 respondents, 407 said they are not satisfied with the performance of the courts. The recurring theme among this category of respondents was that courts are too slow to dispose of cases.
Human rights activist Billy Mayaya, while acknowledging the good in the country’s justice machinery, said more needs to be done.
“Efforts are being made to improve the justice system through initiatives under the Democratic Governance programmes under the EU, UNDP as well as the Primary Justice Programme of DfID working throughout Malawi with the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) Lilongwe Diocese.
“However, there is need to increase the number of lawyers from the current number of less than 500 in order to address the myriad challenges. There is also need to fill in the outstanding vacancies dogging the Ministry of Justice,” said Mayaya.
Judiciary spokesperson Mike Tembo said there are many factors that cause delays in concluding cases.
“The High Court rules are complex and leave room for parties to delay cases. The parties themselves sometimes delay cases by, for example, not bringing witnesses.
“The other thing is that the level of litigation has grown in Malawi while the court human resource department has somewhat remained the same,” said Tembo.
He said the Judiciary is developing new High Court rules that will help to speed up cases.
“We are also training 59 magistrates at Mpemba [Staff Development Institute] and we are sure that they will speed up the rate at which cases are handled on the ground,” said Tembo.