In what appears to be a desperate attempt to widen his dictatorship from the executive branch of government to the judiciary, President Peter Mutharika has warned Malawi judges ‘to be fair’.
At the swearing in ceremony of three new High Court judges at Sanjika Palace, President Peter Mutharika warned the judiciary not to interfere with the responsibilities of other arms of government; executive and legislature.
According to media reports, Mutharika said, “as the Head of State I respect the independence of the judiciary but let me be clear that all over the world, the independence of the judiciary does not mean that the judiciary is government in itself.”
He further said, “parliament should do its work of making laws, the judiciary should interpret them while I implement them. The judiciary should be making its judgments without interfering with the other arms of government.”
The warning to the judiciary is the latest evidence that Mutharika is feeling restrained from becoming a full uncontrolled dictator.
His warning is coming after a series of court loses in recent significant cases.
The most significant loss was when on 3rd February, 2020, the Constitutional Court nullified the May 21, 2019 presidential elections on the basis of what it described as widespread, systematic and grave irregularities.
Mutharika was the beneficiary of the nullified election. The nullification made him just a temporary president as the country waits for the court ordered fresh election to be held within 150 days from the judgement day.
The second loss was when the Constitutional Court threw out Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) and Mutharika’s application for a stay order of the enforcement of the judgement the court delivered on February 3, 2020.
This loss was soon followed by another loss at the Supreme Court of Appeal when MEC’s appeal to be granted a stay order against the judgment that nullified the May 21 2019 presidential election was dismissed.
These losses were so painful to Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) followers to the extent that they organized what they stupidly called ‘marches for justice’ where they ferried hundreds of people from the southern region villages, dressed them in DPP regalia and paraded them in the cities.
In the marches, DPP called the judges ‘ corrupt’ among other insults. To cement what his followers said in the wrongly called marches for justice, Mutharika last week challenged the judiciary “to be impartial and accountable in its work.”
He also said “Malawians expect expeditious and impartial judgment. Malawians expect judiciary of high and unquestionable integrity. Judgment means acting fairly without fear or favour.”
This is incredible coming from a leader of a party whose known member was caught red handed trying to bribe the Constitutional Court judges to get a favorable judgement.
Businessman Thomson Mpinganjira was arrested on allegations that he attempted to bribe judges hearing the presidential election case at the Constitutional Court.
He is waiting for commencement of his case. Having failed to bribe the judges and after losing the election case, it’s hypocrisy of the highest order for Mutharika to act holy and intimidate the judges.
If at all Mutharika is interested in fairness, he should start with the branch of government that he leads.
He should start with instructing the police to deal with his DPP cadet thugs who always wreak havoc and get away with it.
Yet opposition members are arrested at the slightest hint of breaking the law or not breaking the law at all.
Only then will all Malawians respect his call for fairness. But we know Mutharika is not interested in fairness.
His call for fairness is a call for the judiciary to act according to his wishes, just like most of the government departments that are controlled by the executive.
Mutharika is just trying to do everything to remain in power. At police, capital hill and MEC, he has succeeded in putting puppets that disregard Malawi laws to maintain his grip on power.
However, he has failed to do so at Malawi Defence Force (MDF) and the Judiciary.
These are the two sectors that have protected Malawi’s democracy so far. We are yet to see the effect of the changes he has made at MDF.
I doubt he is going to succeed because MDF is a solid and highly disciplined institution that can not just change behaviour because of a few changes in it’s leadership. As for the judiciary, Mutharika should just forget about it.
This is the last institution that would endorse his dictatorship. Others have tried before and failed.
The insults that his party has poured on the judiciary have just made it worse.
Reading recent judgments, it is clear that the judiciary does not want to be part and parcel of raping our sacred laws.
Mutharika conveniently issued the warning to the judiciary with a focus on the presidential elections appeal case which starts on April 15th, just a week after his attempt to intimidate the judges.
Mutharika and his legal team are expecting another loss at the Supreme Court.
The temporary president’s verbal diarrhoea directed at the judiciary is a desperate attempt to look all powerful.
The truth is that under the Malawi constitution, he is not the almighty. Mutharika is an expired law professor who thinks he can teach the judiciary how to do it’s job.
But being a retired law professor leading a pack of wolves (proudly calling themselves witches) is totally different from being current judges of the Malawi courts.
The judges are familiar with their job, read Malawi laws everyday and are not afraid to make rulings according to the law and available evidence. Mutharika and DPP are fighting a losing war.
The sooner they realize this, the better for the political situation in the country.
The temporary president should stop intimidating the judiciary in any way.
Malawi will never go back to dictatorship.