Lawsuits from high-profile personalities such as politicians against people or establishments they believe injured them are not progressing.
According to the Malawi Law Society (MLS), this is leading to the clogging of the justice delivery system.
Cases from high-profile people are stalling when concerned individuals or their lawyers do not push for their cases since the courts, by practice, always wait to be moved.
Examples of lawsuits that have no clear direction include one that President Peter Mutharika brought against Nyasa Times, an online publication, and one of his fierce critics, Allan Ntata in July 2015.
Nyasa Times and Ntata alleged that Mutharika was implicated in a K92 billion Cashgate.
Mutharika, through lawyer James Masumbu, filed for defamation and sought an order to restrain Nyasa Times from further publishing the K92 billion Cashgate issue, and linking it to the Head of State.
The suit, in which the President was claiming damages, had also included Ntata, a former legal adviser to president Bingu wa Mutharika.
Masumbu, in an interview on Friday, admitted the case stalled, adding that it was entirely in his hands to push for the case, having received instructions from Mutharika.
He admitted he did not do the K92 billion Cashgate.
Ntata further claimed, in the article, that the President was delaying to release forensic report of the K92 billion Cashgate under his late brother’s eight-year rule because he was involved, according to the court records.
Nyasa Times had quoted what Ntata wrote on his Facebook page that a Mrs. Sadiq of HTD allegedly defrauded government close to K20 billion on bogus purchases of motor vehicles and that President Mutharika is closely linked to, and associated with HTD, and the bogus payments could be linked to him.
Mutharika said in their natural and ordinary meaning of the published words, he [the President] was engaged in fraud and corruption.
Mutharika claimed: “[The words also mean I am] engaged in dubious transactions with HTD…involved in the looting of public purse from Capital Hill known as Cashgate. In consequence,
has been seriously injured.”
Another lawsuit that stalled is that of Minister of Homeland Security Nicholas Dausi, who in May last year, before the elections, sued the then vice-president Saulos Chilima for stating that the minister masterminded the torching of a Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) warehouse in Lilongwe in 2014.
Documents filed in the High Court of Malawi Lilongwe District Registry by legal firm Mbeta & Company on May 8 2019, acting on behalf of Dausi, show that the minister is claiming damages from Chilima for suggesting that he torched MEC warehouse in 2014, on the eve of a court-ordered recount of votes for the parliamentary election in Lilongwe City South East Constituency.
But Dausi, in an interview on Friday, said he needed time to check with his lawyers on the status of the case.
The statement of claim stated that Chilima on or about April 30 2019, during a whistle-stop tour of Chitipa and Rumphi in the Northern Region, made statements that are defamatory of Dausi.
The statement quotes Chilima as having told political rallies that “DPP leaders should go and return MEC cameras which they had stolen because they are the same people, led by Dausi, who torched the MEC warehouse in 2014”.
Former first lady Callista Mutharika, widow to the late Bingu, also launched a lawsuit in June 2018, demanding K500 million from Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) secretary general Grezelder Jeffrey for claiming at a rally that Callista killed her husband.
Callista’s lawyer, Ambokire Salimu, also admitted in an interview on Friday that there was no progress on the matter because judge Mike Tembo was among the judges presiding over the elections case in Lilongwe.
Salimu explained that there was an application before Tembo for contempt of court against Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) and Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC).
The court, according to Salimu, ordered Macra and MBC to release data [recordings] of the defamatory statement by Jeffrey.
“Now that hearing of the elections case was concluded, I am hopeful we will be heading for trial. Mediation failed,” Salimu said.
“The claimant claims from the defendant an amount of K500 million from the defendants being damages on the footing of aggravated damages from the slander in respect of the defendant’s utterances at a Democratic Progressive Party’s rally on June 2 2018 at Thyolo District…” Callista’s claim reads, in part.
The claimant had pleaded that as a result of the defendants’ defamation; her character had been vilified and continued to suffer contempt and odium as an alleged killer of her husband.
According to the court documents, MBC TV and Radio 1 came in as second defendants as even after noting that the first defendant, Jeffrey, had started the defamatory remarks, the public broadcaster did not take steps to stop the live broadcast.
But Malawi Law Society (MLS), in a response to a questionnaire, said practice rules have provisions that enable the court to dismiss cases that have stalled for want of prosecution.
MLS secretary Martha Kaukonde said if at all the parties that had their cases dismissed for want of prosecution would want to restore their cases, they would have to give reasons to the court as to why they never pursued their cases in accordance with the set timelines.
“Such practice clogs up the system and slows down other cases and it’s a practice that has to be discouraged,” she said.