Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu has urged chief justices to be accountable in their endeavours to build trust in the judicial system.
The minister made the remarks when he officially opened a two-day Southern African Chief Justices Forum (SACJF) conference and annual general meeting in Lilongwe under the theme Strengthening Judicial Independence: Towards a Shared Vision of Judicial Selection and Appointment.
Tembenu said judicial independence contributes to economic growth as it attracts foreign direct investments.
“Investors cannot be interested in a country with a judicial system that is not dependable and is influenced by powers that be. Accountability is the pre-requisite of independence. A Judiciary that does not want to be accountable and has no eye for societal needs will not gain the trust of the society and will endanger its independence,” he said.
Section 101 (3) of the Malawi Constitution guarantees judicial independence, stating that all courts and all persons presiding over courts shall exercise functions, powers and duties independent of the influence and direction of any other person or authority.
Tembenu said the fact that the Judicial Commission appoints chief justices without interference from the Executive arm of government guarantees judicial independence.
In his remarks, SACJF chairperson Peter Shivute from Namibia said the regional forum will act as a learning point for chief justices who will come with a common goal on independence of the Judiciary.
He said: “I urge you all to take this seriously. An independent judicial system attracts more direct investment, I don’t think an investor can come and invest where they feel the justice system is infested with corruption. Let us learn from each other to make the system tick.”
SACJF commits to, among others, protect and promote democracy, justice , the rule of law and fundamental human rights as enshrined in the African Charter on Human and Peoples rights.
It also advances access to courts, promotes provision of State-funded legal aid schemes, good governance and eradication of corruption.