The High Court in Blantyre has ordered President Lazarus Chakwera to write appointment letters to Jean Mathanga and Linda Kunje, the two Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) commissioners he fired.
The two estranged commissioners were on April 20 2021 saved by an injunction by the same court, making the disabled MEC functional again, after it was left incapacitated following their removal.
The court, in its judgement on Friday, made by judge Jack N’riva, further ordered that government should pay the two their withheld benefits and salaries with interest as they worked all along without being paid.
Attorney General (AG) Chikosa Silungwe, first defendant in the case, could not comment on the matter yesterday when we wanted to know whether his office would appeal the judgement. He said he was yet to see the judgement.
MEC was second defendant in the case.
Lozindaba Mbvundula, lawyer representing Mathanga and Kunje, said the judgement was made in an open court, but a perfected copy of it is expected to be issued tomorrow.
Mbvundula said they applied declaratory orders and the court ruled in favour of his clients.
Mathanga and Kunje earlier obtained the stay order restraining government from removing them from their positions and judicial review on their firing would be heard later.
In its communication dated April 7 2021, the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) said it had rescinded the appointment of Mathanga and Kunje “because they were adjudged incompetent by the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal in the May 21 2019 presidential election nullification case”.
Besides the court raising questions about their competence in managing the election, the Public Appointments Committee (PAC) of Parliament also found them incompetent in relation to the disputed presidential election.
However, the court’s issuance of the stay order, obtained through lawyers Ritz Attorneys at Law, effectively meant the status before the rescission of their appointments prevailed.
The order comes after the immediate-past governing Democratic Progressive Party, which sponsored the two, also dragged President Lazarus Chakwera and Secretary to the President and Cabinet (SPC) Zanga-Zanga Chikhosi to court, seeking nullification of his decision.
Meanwhile, Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (Cdedi) said at a news conference in Blantyre yesterday that they feel vindicated with the High Court judgement that has ordered Chakwera to formally appoint the two MEC commissioners.
“Cdedi is hereby requesting the legal counsel for the two MEC commissioners to consider moving the courts to slap President Chakwera and Secretary to the President and Cabinet Mr. Zanga-Zanga Chikhosi with the legal costs in their personal capacities, for wantonly disregarding the rule of law, and in direct defiance of legal advice from the Attorney General.
“Those who may choose to care may recall that in our petition dated December 18 2020 under the heading ‘we say no to impunity and executive arrogance,’ we asked the President and the SPC to act on the Attorney General’s legal opinion to give the two MEC Commissioners their appointment letters,” said Namiwa.
Cdedi argued further that the poor and marginalised taxpayers should not pay for Chakwera’s growing disrespect for the rule of law and the Republic Constitution.
“After all, a good precedent was already set, where the country’s former president Arthur Peter Mutharika, and the former SPC Lloyd Muhara, were recently personally held liable for similar decisions they made while they were in office.
“Lastly, but not the least, Cdedi is reminding President Chakwera that before assuming the high office of the Presidency, he took an oath to protect the Constitution without fear or favour. Cdedi, therefore, will not hesitate to mobilise Malawians to stand up against Chakwera’s total disrespect for the rule of law, selective application of justice and attempts to take back the country to dictatorship,” Namiwa said.