Malawi lawyers protest
Malawi lawyers protest|Source: Friends of HRDC Malawi Twitter handle (@Friends_of_HRDC)
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Malawi Judiciary hits back at President’s attempt to send Chief Justice on leave as lawyers urge Executive to get “hands off” Judiciary

In a bid to safeguard its independence, the Judiciary of the African nation of Malawi has thwarted an attempt by the country’s President to order its Chief Justice to go on leave.

Aditya AK

In a bid to safeguard its independence, the Judiciary of the African nation of Malawi has thwarted an attempt by the country’s President to order its Chief Justice to go on leave.

On June 5, the Chief Secretary to the Government of Malawi wrote a letter to Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda asking him to proceed on leave. The letter states that though Chief Nyirenda will superannuate on attaining the age of 65 years in December 2021, since he has accumulated 572 days of leave through the course of his tenure, he is due to be placed on leave pending retirement.

A similar letter was sent to Justice Edward Twea of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, who retires in April 2021.

The letters prompted organisations led by lawyers and civil rights activists, including the Human Rights Defenders Coalition Limited (HRDC), to file an application challenging the government’s move.

In an order dated June 14, the High Court of Malawi stayed the move of the government to place the Chief Justice and Justice Twea on leave. By its order, the High Court also allowed for judicial review of the move, and directed the Chief Secretary to the government to disclose to HRDC and other applicants all copies of correspondence between himself and the Chief Justice.

Order passed by Malawi High Court dated June 14
Order passed by Malawi High Court dated June 14 Source: @GoldenMatonga

A press release issued by the Judiciary details the process of appointment and removal of judges in the country. It states that once a judge is appointed to office, matters relating to welfare and disciple fall within the exclusive province of the Judiciary, and that the Executive is not involved in such affairs.

Malawi lawyers protest the government's attempt to send the CJ on leave
Malawi lawyers protest the government's attempt to send the CJ on leave Source: Towards Malawi Elections Twitter handle (@Malawi2014)

On the issue of leave, the release notes that a judicial officer may opt to carry forward leave days towards retirement, provided such leave days are not commuted for cash.

According to The Guardian, Chief Justice Nyirenda was part of the Bench that annulled last year’s election, which was won by incumbent President Peter Mutharika. After the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld this decision, fresh elections are slated to take place on June 23.

[Read the press release issued by the Judiciary]

Malawi High Court press release.pdf
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