The High Court in Lilongwe is today expected to hear a matter in which a Sheriffs of Malawi boss risks to be jailed for contempt of court for his failure to obey an order by the court requiring him to seize Malawi Prison Service (MPS) property.
Lawyers for a private company, Universal Kit Suppliers, will be asking High Court judge Ken Manda to send to prison the sheriffs’ boss, Peter Mlauzi.
The company supplied uniforms to MPS but the institution failed to settle the debt amounting to K724 million.
The High Court earlier granted an execution order, permitting Universal Kit Suppliers to seize property belonging to MPS to compel them settle the debt, but Attorney General (AG) filed an appeal at the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal to stay the order.
But Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Lovemore Chikopa dismissed the application. Then Universal Kit Suppliers, using their lawyer Tamando Chokotho, moved on with contempt charges against Mlauzi for the failure to execute the order.
The AG is expected to defend Mlauzi.
According to court documents we have seen, Chokotho in his affidavit also queried Mlauzi to explain how he used K389 320.00 paid to the Sheriffs of Malawi by Universal Kit Suppliers to help seizure of MPS motor vehicles.
Earlier when the AG appeared before the Supreme Court to file the application to suspend the execution order, the AG’s office admitted the prison owed the private firm but government was against the proposition to enforce the judgment by way of execution.
The AG feared the matter was going to open a floodgate of other creditors owed by government who were likely going to turn to courts.
The AG’s office argued there were numerous judgments against government which had not been paid or were in the process of getting paid, and to allow execution of the judgment in question, was going to entail enormous strain on the public purse and issuing of payments that had not been budgeted for.
But Chikopa dismissed the application, arguing the court doubted whether it should be talking about government creditors who might execute. He said courts only deal with matters that are before them.
The judge said talking about real issues, there was money owed and a judgment to that effect. He said the court below determined that the judgment could be enforced by execution.