23 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your LORD.’ Matthew 25:23
Last week, Malawi suffered a great loss, that of Friday Lewis Makuta S.C, Malawi’s first Malawian Chief Justice. The late Makuta, started his civil service career in 1961 when he joined the Public Service in 1961 and remained in service in a span of 43 years.
In the illustrious career of civil, servant, politician, civil service, and politician, I was privileged to have my paths cross with the former Chief Justice, first as a child in the UK and later as a journalist during the campaign for multi-party politics in Malawi, Makuta was among Richard Banda, Lewis Chatsika, Eric Kumitsonyo, and others sent to the UK.
But my memorable interaction with late Makuta, was as a journalist for The Independent. I sat next to then Minister of Justice and Attorney-General Friday Makuta at a Malawi Congress Party (MCP) rally in Lunzu.
As is the protocol at rallies, political functionaries speak before the President. And former Blantyre District Chairman, Charles Kamphulusa (he of Ndirande is full of people with matekenya [leprosy] fame) stood to speak. He said (sic):
“Ngwazi, these multi-party people are playing with fire. To make matters worse, we have someone suing you, and yet there’s someone there whom you gave a job. And he just sits idle (phwiii),” Kamphulusa said.
The mammoth crowd broke out laughing; I turned to my right to ask the Minister of Justice whom the Chairman was referring; I was shocked to hear him say: “It’s me, he’s taking about me.”
Although I laughed and joked with him and told him I would now call him “Uncle Phwii,” the politicking in the run-up to the 1993 Referendum and even the first multi-party elections in 1994, were such that people approached the microphone and uttered highly offensive and unacceptable verbiage. These were made for political capital in inflicting as much harm as possible to the opponents, thereby to please the leaders.
Out of principle, the Minister of Justice/Attorney-General, resigned. He had served his in various leadership capacities within the Malawi Congress Party Government under Kamuzu Banda; these included, Legal Aid Counsel, Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Director of Public Prosecutions, High Court Chief Justice, among other merit-based positions. It was beneath him to be caught in tassel with party functionaries.
Late Makuta secured a seat in 1994 under the Muluzi Administration and was again appointed Minister of Justice and Attorney-General. His last appointment was his service as Malawi’s High Commissioner in Namibia and later Zambia. He retired in 2004, clocking 43 years of public service.
Former Chief Justice Makuta’s passing this past week, was a great loss to Malawi, as another unsung hero transitions with little pomp, little ceremony at his Mbiza village, attended by family friends. Minister of Justice Tembenu represented President Mutharika.
As a robust advocate of human freedoms, I have an outsized space in my heart and hold in high esteem all persons that contribute in gigantic selfless measure to our freedoms, as epitomized in the life of late Chief Justice Friday Lewis Makuta (retired). His service to Malawi exemplifies a progression of increasing relevant contribution to the work of nation building in Malawi that started before independence or self-government.
I continue to will my Malawi leaders to establish a National Hall of Fame for our heroes such as Chief Justice Friday Lewis Makuta (retired). The lineup of his biography, secured from his family is as follows:
- Born on 25/10/1936 at Mbiza village
- Attended Mbiza and Malamulo Primary Schools
- Attended Dedza Secondary School
- Joined the Public Service in 1961
- Took up legal studies in the United Kingdom in 1964
- Was admitted to the bar at Middle Temple in November 1967
- Joined the Ministry of Justice as State Counsel and traditional courts commissioner when he returned to Malawi in 1967
- He was appointed legal aid counsel in 1969
- He was appointed Chief Legal Aid Counsel on 23rd March 1970
- On 22nd May 1972 he was appointed Director of Public Prosecutions
- Between 3rd August 1974 and 31st January 1975, he acted as a judge of the High Court
- In July 1975, he was appointed Judge of the High Court
- In February 1976, he was appointed Attorney General, a position that he later combined with that of Secretary for Justice
- Appointed Senior Counsel in 1979
- On 1st January 1984, he was appointed Deputy Secretary to the President and Cabinet
- Between May 1985 and 31st August 1985, he acted as Secretary to the President and Cabinet
- On 1st September 1985, he was appointed Chief Justice (he took over from: James John Skinner1970–1985)
- On the 20th of January 1992, he was appointed Minister of Justice
- In May 1994, he was elected Member of Parliament for Mulanje Bale Constituency
- Between August 1994 and July 1995, he served as Attorney General
- From January 2000 to mid-2002 he served as Malawi’s High Commissioner to Namibia
- From mid-2002 to July 2004 he served as Malawi’s High Commissioner to Zambia
- Thereafter, he retired from public service.
May the soul of Chief Justice Friday Lewis Makuta (retired), rest in God’s eternal loving peace.