The Malawi Defence Force (MDF) and its Commander, General Griffin Supuni-Phiri, have been dragged to court over redeployment of an officer who was working as Deputy Director of Legal Services to another post at the Malawi Armed Forces College (Mafco).
In the case, filed as Miscellaneous Civil Cause Number 80 of 2017, the MDF is the first respondent while Supuni- Phiri is the second respondent.
The officer, Chanju Samantha Mwale, was appointed Deputy Director of Legal Services in August 2016.
However, court documents we have seen indicate that Supuni-Phiri removed her from the position on May 12, 2017, and appointed her Staff Officer in the Directorate of Research and Development.
In the court documents, filed by White and Cross Law Consultants at Lilongwe District Registry, Mwale applied for leave for judicial review on the matter on May 25, 2017.
Mwale was, on April 10, 2017, told to relocate from Kamuzu Barracks to Area 47 in Lilongwe before being transferred to Mafco on May 31, 2017.
On May 29, 2017 Judge Charles Mkandawire granted her leave to apply for judicial review. He, however, did not stay implementation of the decisions by the MDF and Supuni-Phiri.
An order for leave for judicial review dated June 13, 2017 from the court gives more details:
“…That the application be and is hereby allowed and that the applicants do have leave to apply for judicial review of the respondent’s decision comprised in the letter[s] dated between or around the period of 4th April 2017 and 12th May 2017, to relocate the applicant from Kamuzu Barracks to Area 47, relinquish her appointment as Deputy Director of Legal Services and appointing the applicant as Staff Officer in the Directorate of Research and Development and transferring her to Salima, Mafco.”
According to the document, it was directed that the application for judicial review shall be made by originating motion and that its hearing shall be expedited.
Among the reliefs Mwale sought was a declaration that the decision to relocate her from Kamuzu Barracks to Area 47 [Lilongwe], “is illegal, discriminatory, tantamount to harassment and endangerment”
“A declaration that the Malawi Defence Force Commander acted unlawfully and/or irregularly by ordering the relinquishment of the appointment of Deputy Director of Legal Services and ordering the applicant’s appointment as Staff Officer in the Directorate of Research and Development, the applicant being a lawyer by training and therefore suited to the Directorate of Legal Services and appointments therein,” reads another relief she sought.
She also sought a declaration that her new appointment by the MDF Commander is unlawful and irregular and that the new appointment is, in essence, a demotion without any reasons being given.
According to an internal MDF document filed in court, headlined ‘A Matters Appointments, Relinquishments and Postings/ Transfers— Officers’ dated August 25, 2016, Mwale was appointed Deputy Chief of Legal Services.
She joined the MDF as Assistant Legal Officer in 2004.