Solicitor General Janet Banda has come under fire over her comments on social media platform, Facebook, which seemed to imply that the Judiciary was clueless on its powers and functions.
Banda’s post followed the High Court order stopping Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda from carrying out his duties pending findings of the commission of inquiry on the Zambia maize saga.
Writing on her personal Facebook page, Banda, who is also Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Principal Secretary, said Malawi was in a “democracy of anarchy” where “some of the three branches of government don’t know exactly what their powers and functions are.”
Banda went on: “[It is] important to know where executive functions start and end! Where the judicial functions start and end and where legislative functions start and end! Democratic anarchy is rather frustrating to constitutional and administrative lawyers such as some of us.”
However, some sections of society, among them Malawi Law Society (MLS), have seen the remarks as blatantly undermining the decision of the court, describing it as a reckless and a regrettable assault on the Judiciary.
MLS honorary secretary Khumbo Soko said in an interview yesterday that it was important for senior officers of the government, especially the calibre of the Solicitor General, to know better than to undermine the work of judges.
“The statement apparently attributable to the Solicitor General has been brought to our attention. If true, it would be an astonishing, reckless and regrettable assault on the Judiciary. And it would be a statement that we would firmly rebuke,” Soko said.
MLS said being Solicitor General and Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Banda could have approached the court to reverse the decision.
“Statements such as these are potentially contemptuous of the Court and are a needless distraction to the work of the Judiciary,” Soko said.
Speaking in their personal capacities, various legal commentators have described Banda’s remarks as unprofessional and providing enough grounds to have her disqualified as a commissioner of the Commission of Inquiry on the maize saga.
Another commentator said Banda had shown her bias by publicly supporting Chaponda in her criticism of the court’s decision.
He said: “She is a member of the commission of inquiry which is supposed to be independent and without bias. If she can make such remarks publicly, how biased is she going to be when the commission conducts its work? This clearly shows that the composition of the commission has compromised personnel.”
The legal commentator concurred with MLS that the Solicitor General should have used her position to challenge the decision of the court as a senior person in the Ministry of Justice after the Attorney General.
The Constitution of Malawi, under Section 108 establishing the High Court, states that the Judiciary shall have unlimited original jurisdiction to review any law or decision of the government for conformity with the Constitution with its powers conferred by the Constitution. n