Counsel Chikosa Silungwe reading a petition

BLANTYRE-(MaraviPost)—Malawi’s legal minds took to the streets on Wednesday, demanding President Peter Mutharika led administration to stop tampering with the country’s Judiciary which is an independent arm of government established to interpret and protect the Republican Constitution.

The legal practitioners, in collaboration with political and human rights activists, held the protests in all the four major cities of the country namely; Mzuzu, Blantyre, Lilongwe and Zomba and their message centred much on Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda who is being asked by the government to go on leave pending retirement.

The demonstrations comes hot on the heels of President Mutharika’s continue attacks on the courts for nullifying the 2019 presidential election which he believes and insists that it was free, fair and credible.

In Lilongwe, Senior Counsel Chikosa Silungwe, who was also representing Tonse Alliance running mate Saulos Chilima in the presidential election case, challenged the executive arm of government that Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda and Justice of Appeal Edward Twea will not leave their offices.

“The Chief Justice does not leave the office by public notice. In the Republic of Malawi, we know how the Chief Justice leaves and it is not by public notice. Chief Justice Nyirenda and Twea are going no where,”  said Silungwe amid ululation from his fellow lawyers.

Lawyer Victor Gondwe reads out the petition in Mzuzu. The lawyers say they will see to it that nobody tampers with constitutionalism.

 “Tell the executive to get hands-off the Judiciary,” he said.

Lawyers in Mzuzu marching to the High Court

In Blantyre, former Malawi Law Society president, John Gift Mwakhwawa, condemned the President and other members supporting his efforts to obstruct the implementation of the decision of the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court of Appeal delivered on February 3 and May 8 2020 respectively.

Mwakhwawa has called upon all members of the society including President Mutharika to adhere to the verdict of the court and also respect the country’s constitution which supreme above any individual and office.

“The two courts decided that this country should have fresh elections that respect and comply with the law. In this vein, we strongly denounce public statements calculated to discredit the judiciary, attempts to use parliament to reverse the decisions of the court, efforts unlawfully to remove judges from office and any other threats against judicial independence in the country,” said Mwakhwawa.

“We will combat agents of impunity and mediocrity who abuse, ignore or twist the law. Our country needs to have trust in the judiciary that administers justice according to law without fear or favour, affection or ill-will. We will not allow anybody to weaken our judiciary or make it work in a manner that makes it a tool for those with influence,” he added.

Malawi President Mutharika: Under fire for tampering with the court

The demonstration of the lawyers comes at a time the Chief Secretary to the government, Lloyd Muhara, is being condemned for issuing a public notice informing the general public that the Chief Justice Andrew K. C. Nyirenda, SC, will be proceeding on leave with immediate effect.

Both local and international legal experts have since punched holes in the notice saying, it was erroneous and unconstitutional for the executive branch to process retirement of the head of judiciary whose contract still runs up to December 2021.

The High Court also granted two separate orders stopping the process to have Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda proceed on leave pending retirement.

Lilongwe-based High Court Judge Charles Mkandawire issued the first order following an application by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) and Association of Magistrates to restrain President Peter Mutharika and Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet Lloyd Muhara from taking any further action on the matter pending a judicial review.

High Court Judge Thomson Ligowe of the Mzuzu Registry granted yet another order with the same reliefs to the Malawi Law Society (MLS). But he said the Mzuzu matter should be consolidated with the one in Lilongwe.

There has been an antagonism between President Mutharika and the Malawi courts since February 3 when the Constitutional Court nullified the Mutharika’s victory in 2019 presidential election citing widespread irregularities and use of Tippex (correction fluid) to correct figures.

However, witnesses from both petitioners, Lazarus Chakwera and Saulos Chilima, failed to prove in the court that Tippex was used to favour President Mutharika other than correcting errors.

Some quarters are in support of Mutharika, arguing the Court and the opposition connived to orchestrate the down fall of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) through the dubious case.

The country will go to fresh presidential polls on June 23 next week after the Constitutional Court nullified the May 2019 election results and ordered a rerun due to numerous irregularities.

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