MHRC clarifies APM’s role in appointing commissioners as CSOs query on gender imbalance

The country’s taxpayer-funded rights watchdog, The Malawi Human Right Commission (MHRC) has hinted to Civil Society Organization (CSOs)’ accusation towards President Peter Mutharika of fall short of gender imbalance in appointing and selecting commissioners, saying the nominees are subjected to an independent and objective process of assessment laid down by the applicable laws.

MHRC clarification comes after the CSOs on Friday, September 4, 2015 wrote to the office of the President and cabinet requesting PresidentPeter Mutharika to withdraw the newly appointed commissioners that the new process should start all over again to include two or more women from the existing list.


On Tuesday, August 18, 2015 President Peter Mutharika selected new commissioners barely a month after the MHRC bid fare to the end of term for the 5th cohort of commissioners which was in the office since 2012.

The new appointment retained four of the previous commissioners including education activist Benedicto Kondowe, an economic expert Dalitso Kubalasa, Justice Dzonzi, a human rights lawyer and Stephen Mkoka.

“We are not pleased with the list of the new commissioners as only one woman out of seven appointed by Mutharika in August. As such, we have since proposed withdraw of the nominations and that a new process starts all over again to include women. We encourage the Office of the President and Cabinet and Ministry of Gender to take interest in this matter as issue is demanding the image of Malawi and that of The President Peter Mutharika at international level”, reads the letter.

Through a press statement signed by Gertrude Lynn Hiwa, the law commissioner which is available to The Maravi Post, in responding to CSOs’query, MHRC defended the Mutharika on the appointment of the organisation’s commissioners saying the commission was mandated with appointment that the president role was just indorse the nominees who under went thorough scrutiny.

“This Press Statement is issued to proffer clarification with respect to the legal procedures set for the selection and appointment of Commissioners of the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), and the role of the President in that regard. The statement is issued in light of the concerns which have been raised with respect to the outcome of the process of the recently appointed 6th Cohort of Commissioners of MHRC, as having low representation of women.

Having taken notice of the concerns that have arisen, as per the media reports on the matter, the offices vested with the statutory obligation of selecting names of persons to be submitted to the President for appointment as MHRC Commissioners deem it necessary to clarify on the role of the President in this regard.

“It is envisaged that the clarification will put in a proper perspective and appropriate context the concerns that have been raised with the President and the perception that is there regarding limited interest on women’s equal representation in public bodies. In turn, the clarification should contribute to accurately informing further processes over the matter on the part of all concerned parties, in the spirit of amicable, constructive and objective engagement.

The authorities involved in the process of selection and appointment of MHRC Commissioners take due cognizance of the fact that the concern raised with respect to the low representation of women in MHRC is valid and legitimate. The attainment of gender equality is one of the critical processes for Malawi’s democratization process.

“Further, the equal representation of women and girls in mainstream public decision making processes is critical for the attainment of gender equality. Nonetheless, the inclusion of women in these mainstream processes, including through affirmative action, should and needs to be implemented within the ambit of existing applicable laws.

The Constitution of the Republic of Malawi, (the Constitution), and the Human Rights Commission Act (the Act), vests the responsibility of the selection of names to be considered for appointment by the President in the Law Commissioner and the Ombudsman.

“In accordance with the applicable laws, the Law Commissioner and the Ombudsman draw the list of the names to be submitted for appointment from among a list of nominations received from organizations that work in the human rights sector in Malawi. The nominations are subjected to an independent and objective process of assessment that is based on criteria that is laid down by the applicable laws.

“In terms of the relevant law, out of this process the Law Commissioner and Ombudsman come up with a list of 7 persons to be appointed as Commissioners of MHRC and 3 persons to be put on reserve to fill any vacancy which may occur in the composition of the Commission in the course of its tenure of office. The names of the persons so selected are therefore submitted to the President for formal appointment.

Section 131(2) of the Constitution puts an obligation on the President to appoint the persons so submitted to him or her as Commissioners to safeguard the independence of MHRC. The law does not permit the President to in any way whatsoever; alter the names submitted to him or her, or to go out of the submitted list in making the appointments.

“Thus, in line with the applicable law the names that were submitted to the President for appointment as MHRC Commissioners were selected through a comprehensive, transparent and objective legal and administrative process.

“It is therefore important to note that the President is confined within the list of names of the persons initially nominated and submitted to him or her for appointment. In light of the above clarification, it should be noted that the President as well as the offices entrusted with the selection process of persons to be appointed as Commissioners of MHRC duly acted within the parameters of the applicable laws, and the resultant membership of the 6th Cohort of
MHRC Commissioners was accordingly legally constituted”, concludes statement.

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